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MLB: Astros pitching great J.R. Richard dies at 71

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Houston Astros pitching legend J.R. Richard died Wednesday night at a Houston hospital at age 71.

The 6-foot-8 right-hander played with the Astros from 1971-80 before his career was cut short when he suffered a stroke at the age of 30.

Richard was a 20-game winner in 1976, topped the National League in strikeouts in 1978 and 1979 and led the NL in ERA 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. J.R. will forever be remembered as an intimidating figure on the mound and as one of the greatest pitchers in club history,” the team said in a news release. “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 started in the 1980 All-Star Game, just three weeks before he had a stroke while playing catch at Houston’s Astrodome on July 30.

He posted a 107-71 record with a 3.15 ERA and 19 shutouts and 76 complete games in 238 games (221 starts), striking out 1,493 batters in 1,606 innings. Richard, the No. 2 overall pick in the 1969 draft, ranks fifth in Astros history in wins and is third in strikeouts behind Nolan Ryan (1,866) and Roy Oswalt (1,593).

“J.R. was one of my good friends,” said longtime Astros outfielder Jose Cruz. “This is very sad to hear. I have great memories of J.R. He was one of the greatest Astros ever. When he was pitching, we knew that we were going to get a ‘W.’ I didn’t get too many balls hit to me in the outfield when he pitched because he was so dominating. He was a great friend and a great teammate.”

In 2019, Richard was part of the inaugural class inducted into the Astros Hall of Fame.

–Field Level Media

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