The Astros haveannounced
that Jeff Bagwell's number 5 will be retired. For those not quite up on the lingo, that means that no other Astro player will be able to wear that number. Bagwelljoins the ranks
of Jimmy Wynn, Jose Cruz, Jim Umbricht, Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan, Don Wilson and Larry Dierker.
Now, if you're an old-time Astros fan, you might notice that the name of one player of note is missing. That's right, the Astros have yet to retire the number 50 worn by J.R. Richard.
For those of you not familiar with J.R. Richard, it's best to say that he was towering giant of a man whose fastball often reached the 100 mph mark. He won twenty games for an awful 1976 Astros team. He was an All-Star.
Richard's career was relatively short. In the midst of dominating 1980 season, Richard suffered a stroke and nearly died. Before the stroke, many accused Richard of faking an arm injury. Richard never returned to the big leagues, finally retiring in 1983.
Richard's life fell apart. He went through a drug addiction. He was homeless. But he found religion, and he's gone about returning his life to some level of stability.
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It seems like the Astros are trying to forget about J.R. Richard. That they're holding their breath, just waiting for him to finally disappear, once and for all. It was the Astros brass, after all, that started the rumors that Richard was faking. His near-death is a black mark because it's the club that helped to bring it about. Richard complained for over a month about health problems, about a dead arm. Richard relied on the team's health officials, and he was never taken to a hospital for tests. At least, until he suffered a stroke during a workout.
Many of you probably never saw J.R. Richard pitch. But Roger Clemens is a minor leaguer compared to Richard. Rocket might dominate games, but Richard overwhelmed and terrorized the opposition. However, I'm pretty sure that come the time that Rocket ever officially retires, that one Drayton McLane will be retiring number 22.
I'm happy for Jeff Bagwell. I've always been a Bagwell fan. But if Drayton and the gang really want to do right by Astros fans, the team will announce it's retiring the number of J.R. Richard. The guy almost died for this team. Retiring his number is the least that the team can do for him.
So, how about it Drayton. Get off of your ass and do the right thing. — John Royal