Aug. 5 (UPI) — Former Houston Astros star pitcher J.R. Richard, a two-time National League strikeout champion whose career was cut short in 1980 due to a stroke, died Thursday at the age of 71, it was announced.
The Astros confirmed his death, but the club didn’t provide a cause or say where he died.
“Today is a sad day for the Houston Astros as we mourn the loss of one of our franchise icons, J.R. Richard,” the team 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.”
In 10 seasons with the Astros, Richard posted a 107-71 record with a 3.15 ERA and 1,493 strikeouts. He recorded 313 strikeouts in the 1979 campaign, which stood as the club’s single-season record until Gerrit Cole eclipsed it in 2019.
Richard, who pitched for Houston from 1971-80, still ranks third in strikeouts and fifth in wins and shutouts (19) in Astros history. He is tied for second in team history in career ERA.
Less than a month after playing in the 1980 All-Star Game, Richard was playing catch before a game inside the Astrodome when he suffered the stroke that ended his career at age 30.
Richard attempted to make a comeback, but he was unable to reach the MLB level again. The Astros released him in 1984.
“He had the greatest stuff I have ever seen,” Hall of Famer Joe Morgan previously said. “It still gives me goosebumps to think of what he might have become.”