HOUSTON (KXAN) — Former Houston Astros pitcher J.R. Richard, one of Major League Baseball’s hardest-throwing pitchers in the 1970s, died Thursday, the club confirmed. He was 71.
Richard pitched for the Astros for all 10 seasons of his career from 1971-80. He was one of MLB’s most feared pitchers of his era, standing 6 feet, 8 inches tall with a triple-digit fastball and one of the league’s best breaking balls. He’s was an Astros Hall of Fame inductee in 2012, and had a 107-71 record with a career 3.15 ERA.
He led the National League with a 2.71 ERA in 1979, won 20 games in 1976 and was named to the NL all-star team in 1980 before suffering a career-ending stroke in July of that year.
In a stretch from 1976-1979, he threw 13 or more complete games each season, something that’s unheard of in the current generation of MLB pitchers. He threw 19 complete games in his 1979 and won the league strikeout title twice with 303 in 1978 and 313 in 1979.
“Today is a sad day for the Houston Astros as we mourn the loss of one of our franchise icons, J.R. Richard,” the Astros said in a statement. “J.R. will forever be remembered as an intimidating figure on the mound and as one of the greatest pitchers in club history. He stood shoulder to shoulder with club icons Larry Dierker, Joe Niekro and Nolan Ryan, to form a few of the best rotations in club history. Sadly, his playing career was cut short by health issues, but his 10 years in an Astros uniform stand out as a decade of excellence. We send our heartfelt condolences to J.R.’s wife, Lula, his family, friends and countless fans and admirers.”
The club will hold a moment of silence for Richard before Thursday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. They’ll also recognize his career prior to Saturday’s game.