J.R. Richard’s Opening Day Record

(L-R) Bill McCurdy, Johnny Storenski, and J.R. Richard Josephine's Ristorante 2002

(Above) Bill McCurdy, Johnny Storenski, J.R. Richard;

Josephine’s Ristorante, Houston, Texas (2002).


J.R. Richard. How scary was he to the batters to the NL batters that had to face all 6’8″ and 222 pounds of power that was him during the halcyon years of his big league pitching career?

Jose Cruz may have answered that question best when the subject of pitchers came up in a lively little luncheon conversation we were having back in 2003, prior to his autumn induction into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. Cruz had flown in from Puerto Rico to accept the honor. I had driven up from Houston to place his name formally into place, just as I had the name of J.R. Richard a year earlier. As a member of the Texas Hall’s Selection Committee back then, I may have triggered Jose’s thoughts on Richard referentially as we were going over the plan for Cruz’s induction.

“J.R. Richard!” Cruz bellowed out loudly, as both elbows came down upon the dining table simultaneously in knife-and-fork emphasis.

“He was one of the main reasons the Cardinals made me happy when they traded me to Houston,” Cruz added. “As an Astro, I no longer would be forced to face him as a batter.”

As a Cardinals farm hand, Jose Cruz had faced J.R. enough to know that he’d sooner not make a career out of having to face him as a matter of scheduled routine.

“From the batter’s box,” Jose described excitedly, “the guy looked even bigger than he already is. And when he let go of the ball, there wasn’t much to see because of the speed and the movement of those two long legs and arms – especially, from that right-handed whip arm. When Richard fell off the mound toward home, it looked like his arm was going to reach all the way in and almost hand it to the catcher before it finally shot out of his grip like a bolt of lightning.”

Cruz halted speaking. He smiled. He looked me in the eye quietly as his mind traveled peacefully elsewhere. He almost seemed to be going through a private moment of remembering again – one of the reasons his trade to the Astros was such a good thing.

J.R. Richard was tailor-made to become the Astros club’s Opening Day starter. And so it came readily to be. During the course of his ten-season MLB All-Astros career (1971-1980), J.R. Richard pitched the last five years too as Houston’s season-opener guy. Sadly, any dreams that J.R. entertained of becoming a World Series or Game 7 starter died on the field with the stroke that befell him in August 1980.

J.R. Richard’s Opening Day Record

1976 SF Giants W, 5-0 JR Richard, W 5.2 Ken Forsch, Sv 2.0
1977 Braves, 11 in W, 3-2 JR Richard 9.0 Ken Forsch, W 2.0
1978 SF Giants W, 5-0 JR Richard, W 5.2 Ken Forsch, Sv 2.0
1979 ATL Braves W, 2-1 JR Richard, W 5.1 J Andujar, Sv 3.2
1980 LA Dodgers W, 3-2 JR Richard, W 8.0 Joe Sambito, Sv 1.0

The J.R. Richard Opening Day Starts

The Astros won all five of them. J.R. was 4-0 and reliever Ken Forsch was 1-0

Astros pitching and defense surrendered only 5 runs in those 5 games.

Your further analysis is made easier by the data available to you at the following link:



The “Could’ve Been” Factor Will Live Forever

There’s no “might have been” character to it here. – J.R. Richard “could have been” one of the greatest pitchers on record in the history of baseball. Like a lot of other things that happen – or don’t happen – in life, however, it apparently just wasn’t meant to be.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle



2 Responses to “J.R. Richard’s Opening Day Record”

  1. Cliff Blau Says:

    I guess these are the home openers, right?

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