Houston Astros great J.R. Richard dies at 71

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By , Audacy Sports

Former Houston Astros star pitcher J.R. Richard died on Wednesday night at age 71, the team announced on Thursday.

The former All-star passed away at a Houston-area hospital, local media first reported. The Astros later confirmed the news. The cause of death was unclear.

In a statement, the Astros said Richard was a "franchise icon."

Astros star pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. paid homage to one of his predecessors on social media.

Richard, a native Louisianan, played 10 seasons with the Astros, after they drafted him second overall in the 1969 amateur draft out of Lincoln High School in Ruston.

His career got off to a sluggish start after debuting in the Majors at age 21 in 1971, but he began coming into his own in 1975. From 1976-80, he was one of the game's best pitchers, twice pacing the Majors in strikeouts and once in ERA.

Richard was named an All-Star in 1980 for his dominance, and finished in the top 10 in Cy Young Award balloting three times, including two top-5 finishes.

The towering 6-foot-8, 220-pound flame-throwing right-hander was an intimidating force on the mound, and was a workhorse during his prime, eclipsing 250 innings four seasons in a row from 1976-79.

His prime was tragically short-lived, though, after he suffered a stroke prior to a game in 1980. He attempted a comeback after having a blood clot removed from his neck, even pitching in the minors, but he wasn't the same.

In retirement Richard fell on hard times, reportedly destitute and homeless, but he later recovered from his personal and financial hardships, becoming active in the Houston community and reconnecting with the Astros organization.

Richard finished his career with a 3.15 ERA and 1,493 strikeouts in 1,606 innings pitched.

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