A Life Come Full Circle: The JR Richard Story

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How JR Richard went from a baseball phenom, to a man without a home, and then to a man of god. 

James Rodney Richard, known to many Houston sports fans as JR, played for the Houston Astros from 1971 to 1980. JR was one of the league’s premier pitchers, leading the national league twice in strikeouts, once in earn run average, and three times in hits allowed per inning from 1976 to 1979.

However on July 30th, 1980, Richard’s career would come to an unfortunate halt.

The Astros were playing under those bright lights at the Astrodome and Richard was playing a game of catch with a teammate, when suddenly he collapsed on the field before the game.

I remember hearing stories about this when I was a kid. My mother and father were attending the game and they explained to me that everyone was in shock when he went down. JR was rushed to the hospital to perform emergency surgery for a blood clot in his neck.

Due to his condition, his short baseball career was suddenly over at the young age of 30. Yet his legacy remains in Astros history, for his 313 strikeouts in 1979 remain an Astros franchise record.

Courtesy ESPN

JR spent some time in the minor leagues, but his stroke slowed down his reaction time and depth perception, which led to his retirement from baseball. After his baseball career, Richard returned to his home state of Louisiana and invested in some business ventures. Richard fell prey to an oil business scam that led him to lose over $300,000 in the deal.

Richard was married twice and divorced twice, losing his suburban Houston home and most of his money, suddenly leaving one of the all time best Astros pitchers homeless. He was living under the overpass at Highway 59 and Beechnut road.

After many nights under the overpass and other homeless people harassing him, Richard turn to religion. He sought help from a minister, Reverend Floyd Lewis of the Now Testament Church. Restoring his belief in God, Richard began working for an asphalt company and after a few years of working there he returned to the church as a minister.

JR Richard is still active in the Houston community, working with local financial donors to establish baseball programs for children. His story was a subject of a 2005 independent film titled, “Resurrection: The JR Richard Story,”directed by Greg Carter.


About Matthew Paris

I grew up an avid Houston sports fan. After graduating from Texas Tech University in Theater and English Literature I worked as a marketing rep and coach for I9 Sports, coaching baseball, flag football, soccer, and basketball. I’m currently with Austin Sports Academy as a marketing coordinator, baseball and football coach, and coordinator of middle school and high school open play nights. I’ve written three short films for Looknow Productions and have also written articles on film marketing, producing, and directing. I really enjoy writing about sports and being an active contributor to The Sports Column.

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