Jun 1, 2012, 11:03 AM EDT
When I was seven years-old, I was of the opinion that J.R. Richard was the greatest pitcher in baseball. This was based less on watching him — I might have seen him pitch once on a Game of the Week or something and knew nothing about pitching then — as it was on what older people said and gaudy numbers on the back of baseball cards.
But, as you probably know, Richard’s career was cut short — and his life derailed — by a stroke he suffered while warming up in the Astrodome on July 30, 1980. He would never pitch again. He would fall into drug abuse and homelessness. Only in the past several years has he gotten back on his feet, and is now a preacher and community worker.
He’s being honored by the Astros today, when he will be inducted into their “Walk of Fame” outside of Minute Maid Park. Tonight he will throw out the first pitch prior to the game.
But Richard wants more. He wants his number retired:
The Astros have been more liberal than most teams in retiring numbers, and the list of pitchers so honored includes Larry Dierker, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott and a pair who died prematurely in Don Wilson and Jim Umbricht.
Richard hopes his No. 50, which has been given to nine players and now bullpen coach Craig Bjornson since Richard retired, will be next.
“When it happens, it happens, but I would like it to happen as soon as possible,” Richard said. “And the reason why I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn is because when you look at the statistics, my number should have been the first one retired.”
Hard to blame him. After all he gave to the Astros, one would hope that they could quit giving out number 50 to others.
- David Ortiz is more likely to be boned in Hall of Fame voting for being a DH than for PED stuff 0
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights 36
- The Marlins are going to change everything except their biggest problem this offseason 50
- Drooling over Miguel Sano’s incredible numbers through 50 career games 35
- Matt Williams puts up another strong performance in his quest to get himself fired 104
- Settling the Scores: Tuesday’s results 81
- Yankees reveal Mark Teixeira’s shin injury is “more than we thought” 16
- There’s a chicken pox outbreak in the Royals’ clubhouse and multiple players are infected 28
- Sarah Palin sticks up for Curt Schilling, tells ESPN to “stick to sports” (266)
- Matt Williams puts up another strong performance in his quest to get himself fired (104)
- Why Mike Mussina keeps getting hosed in the Hall of Fame voting (89)
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights (87)
- Settling the Scores: Tuesday’s results (81)