TWIBH Episode 60: No One Believes J.R. Richard

J.R. Richard is a longtime favorite of both of ours: lightning fastball, unhittable slider, questionable control, and in the words of Carson Cistulli, “the baddest there ever was.” He’s also one of baseball’s real what-might-have-been stories, as 38 years ago this week (after months of complaining of fatigue and medical issues that no one else believed), after having started the All-Star Game for the National League, Richard collapsed from a stroke, and would never pitch in the majors again. His career, his injury, and his post-career rock-bottom depth and resurgence are the topic of our show this week.

0:00: Intro; Bill couldn’t find a trade partner for Mike, and is very sad he can’t record on his back patio.
2:37: Bill on Richard’s early life and career up to 1980.
13:28: Mike on 1980, Richard’s stroke, and his aborted comeback attempt.
31:07: Bill on Richard’s post-career troubles and remarkable recovery
41:10: This Week in Birthdays! Mike wishes a happy birthday to Native American legend Chief Meyers, and Bill (at about 48:45) has Leon “Bull” Durham, who has no direct connection to that movie.
58:58: Memorials: Mid-nineties Red Sox pitcher Vaughn Eshelman, who passed last week at just 49; Tony Cloninger, who threw the first pitch for the Atlanta Braves and once hit two grand slams in a game, who died the same day at 77.

Key Resources:

SABR bios for Chief Meyers and Tony Cloninger.
A telling 2001 interview with Richard that provided some of the background for his early life.
The August 1980 SI article on Richard’s stroke and his struggle to be believed.
A good article on Richard that we didn’t use (it was posted just an hour ago as I write this!) but is very worth a read.

Finally, J.R. Richard, in those glorious orange stripes, dominating the 1980 All-Star Game:


Keep it crispy!


About Bill

Bill is an employment lawyer and baseball geek. Also a comedy geek, and just a geek generally.