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Houston Matters

Still Throwing Heat: Former Astro J.R. Richard’s Story of Redemption

The former Astros All-Star pitcher talks about his career, becoming homeless, and his story of redemption.

A black-and-white photo of Astros pitcher J.R. Richard throwing a baseball in 1978
Steve Helber/AP
Late Astros pitcher J.R. Richard on the mound in 1978.

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JR Richard Still Throwing Heat Book Cover

Tonight is Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. The Houston Astros have two players representing them in this year's midsummer classic: second-baseman Jose Altuve and relief pitcher Will Harris.

But more than 35 years ago, in 1980, one of the players that represented them in the All-Star Game was pitcher J.R. Richard. He was a mainstay in the Astros’ rotation throughout the 1970s, one of the dominant pitchers of his era, who saw it all vanish when he suffered a stroke at the age of 30.

The descent was sharp – filled with aborted comeback attempts, continued health challenges, divorce, depression, economic woes and – for a time – homelessness. But Richard's story is also one of redemption. Faith and a new love helped him turn his life around.

He talks about this rise, fall – and rise again – in his memoir, Still Throwing Heat: Strikeouts, the Streets, and a Second Chance.