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MLB – 1980 All Star Game – J R Richards & Rod Carew & Pete Rose et al imasportsphile com


The starting pitcher for the National League in the 1980 MLB All Star Game was Houston Astros J. R. Richards…..a “flame throwing” righthander who was one of the first pitchers in Major League Baseball to throw consistantly over 100 mph….and by the time that he teamed-up with MLB’s all time strikeout leader, Nolan Ryan to form the most dynamic 1 – 2 pitching punch in the game for the Houston Astros….it looked as if the Astros were going to be a team to be reckoned with for years to come….especially the 1980 season….where in any given 3 or 4 game series….opponents of the Astros first had to face the “flame throwing” of J. R. Richards (10 – 4, 1.89 ERA, 119 K’s in 1/2 season) in game 1…..the knuckleball of Joe Niekro (20 – 12, 3.55 ERA)  in game 2….who was almost as good at throwing the “knuckler” as his Hall of Fame Member brother, Joe Niekro….then the opposing team had to face The Ryan Express of Nolan Ryan (11 – 10, 3,35 ERA, 200 K’s) in game 3….who set a career record of 5,714 strikeouts….and then they faced either Vern Ruhle (12 – 4, 2.37 ERA), Ken Forsch (12 – 13, 3.20 ERA) or Joaquim Andujar (3 – 8, 3.91 ERA) in game 4….and if these starters were not good enough on any given day….in came Joe Sambito (8 – 4, 2.19 ERA) and Dave Smith (7 – 5, 191 ERA) to close the game out…..for this was an outstanding pitching staff….as the Astros won the NL West for the 1st time in their MLB franchise history.

By the time that J.R. Richards started the 1980 All Star Classic…he was among the best pitchers in baseball. When asked in 2012 who was the “toughest pitcher to get a hit off of” during his career…Atlanta Braves star OF Dale Murphy answered “Anybody that played in the late 70’s or early 80’s will probably give you the same answer: JR Richard”.  In 1980, Richard was now teamed with seven-time American League strikeout champion Nolan Ryan….who had joined the Astros as a free agent. During the first half of the season, Richard was virtually unhittable, starting the year with five straight wins and 48 strikeouts….including two starts with 12 and 13 strikeouts respectlively….and a sub-2.00 ERA.  He was named National League Pitcher of the Month for April….who at one point threw three straight complete-game shutouts…with two against the Giants and one against the Cubs.  On July 3, he broke Astros Larry Dierker’s team record of 1487 career strikeouts in a 5–3 win over the Braves….for it was to be Richard’s last major league victory. After finishing the first half of the season with a 10–4 record, 119 strikeouts and a 1.96 ERA….Richard was selected to be the National League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game on July 8….but he pitched just two innings due to various back and shoulder problems.  As the season progressed, Richard began to complain of a “dead arm”….citing discomfort in his shoulder and forearm. His concerns fell on deaf ears. Some in the media even interpreted these complaints as whining or malingering, citing Richard’s reputation for moodiness. Others hypothesized that Richard was egotistical and could not handle the pressure of pitching for the Astros….while others suggested he was jealous of Ryan’s $4.5 million contract.

During his next start on July 14 against the Braves….Richard was pitching well and even struck out the side in the second inning…. but had trouble seeing catcher Alan Ashby’s signs and also had difficulty moving his arm. He left the game in the fourth inning after throwing a fastball and feeling his right arm go “dead”. He had numbness in the fingers of his right hand and could not grasp a baseball. The Astros placed Richard on the 21-day disabled list.…but as it turned out, it would be his last major league game….for J. R. Richards would suffer 3 separate strokes over the following three (3) weeks…..and any way you cut the pie….lifetime Astro fans like Bone Daddy would never get to see what the 3 -R’s of Richards, Ryan and Ruhle….with the knuckler Niekro….could ever accomplish….as many baseball affecionardos feel that they could have won several World Series.

I gave some love to J. R. Richards herewith while posting this video….cuz he was a dominat pitcher who could have had a long and brilliant career and he deserves his place in baseball history….but in this midsummer all star classic game….J.R. toed the mound in a game where 14 future members of MLB’s Hall of Fame played including OF Jim Rice, SS Robin Yount, OF Rickey Henderson, 2B Paul Molitor, 3B George Brett, P Goose Gossage, OF Dave Winfield, C Johnny Bench, 1B Rod Carew, OF Reggie Jackson, P Steve Carlton, C Carlton Fisk and P Bruce Sutter…..which makes this game well worth watching again. 

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