Houston Astros legend J.R. Richard passes away at age 71

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1978 Focus on Sport

NEW YORK - CIRCA 1978: J.R. Richard #50 of the Houston Astros pitches against the New York Mets during an Major League Baseball game circa 1978 at Shea Stadium in the Queens borough of New York City. J.R. Richard played for Astros from 1971-80. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Houston Astros legend J.R. Richard has passed away at the age of 71.

The team released the following statement: Today is a sad day for the Houston Astros as we mourn the loss of one of our franchise icons, J.R. Richard. 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.”

Richard spent his entire 10-year career with the Astros from 1971-1980. And he was a dominant force, especially in the five-year stretch from 1976-1980, when he compiled a record of 84-55 with an ERA of 2.79. In 1976, he won 20 games followed by at least 18 wins in three more seasons. In his final year, Richard was 10-4 in 17 starts with a 1.90 ERA before suffering a stroke that ended his blossoming career. Before his final season was ended, Richard’s dominance was such that he was named the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game.

Even with a career cut short, Richard has always been and forever will be considered an Astros all-time legend. Richard was the first Astros pitcher to exceed 300 strikeouts in a season, doing so in 1978 and then doing so again in 1979. In both seasons, he led the major leagues in strikeouts. Richard also led the National League with a 2.79 ERA in 1979. And even with a shortened career, Richard still ranks second in club history in career ERA (3.15), third in strikeouts (1,493), fourth in complete games (76), and fifth in both wins (107) and shutouts (19). In 2019, Richard was part of the inaugural class inducted into the Houston Astros Hall of Fame.

The Astros will honor Richard with a moment of silence before tonight’s 7:10 p.m. game and will also recognize his career before Saturday’s 6:10 p.m. game as part of their Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

All in all, Richard finished with a career record of 107-71 and a 3.15 ERA with 1,493 strikeouts in 1606 big-league innings pitched.

About the Author:

Born in Canada but raised in Houston, Howard joined KPRC 2 in 2021 after five years at ESPN. Before that, Howard was a reporter on Houston Rockets and Houston Astros game broadcasts. Among the events that Howard has covered on site: the NBA bubble and the Basketball Hall of Fame inductions for both Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. He's H-town proud!