Atlanta Braves were the final opponents of the great JR Richard

Atlanta Braves' nemesis J. R. Richard throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior for the ALCS. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Atlanta Braves' nemesis J. R. Richard throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior for the ALCS. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Braves’ first baseman Chris Chambliss was the last Major League batter J.R. Richard faced. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Atlanta Braves vs. King Richard

The Braves didn’t fare nearly as well as everyone else. In 822 PA, the team batted .193/.298/.265/.563, hit seven homers, 24 doubles, and three triples while striking out 212 times in 200 1/3 IP.

In his career, Richard posted a 14-6 record in 30 games – 29 starts – pitching to a 2.47 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with a 9.5 K/9 rate… and those numbers shortchange him a bit.

Richard was called the Sandy Koufax of his generation, and like Koufax, it took him some time to harness his fastball and the slider he learned from a pitching manual he found on the side of the road while in high school.

It was 1975 before Richard became a fixture in the Astros rotation. Over the next six seasons, Richard went 13-4 while pitched to a 2.30 ERA in 180 innings over 26 starts. Those starts included seven complete games, three shutouts, 193 strikeouts, and walks 91, one intentional.

That lone intentional walk caught my eye. Richard had only 15 intentional walks in his career; who would he walk on an Atlanta Braves team that he dominated so completely? Murph? Chris Chambliss? Bob Horner? Nope.

The Astros had Richard walk Brian Asselstine with a man on second and two out in the bottom of the ninth, in a tie game on May 10, 1980, to get to Bruce Benedict. Benedict grounded out, but it still seems an odd decision.

The May 10 game was the second of three appearances against the Braves in 1980. The Astros won that game in Atlanta and again in Atlanta on July 3, behind six Richard innings of three-hit two-run ball.

Richard took the mound against Atlanta on July 14 in what was sadly his final game.

Knucksie vs. the King

Neither pitcher allowed a hit through the first two and one-half innings. Richard got the first Astros hit in the bottom of the third, with a double to right, but Phil Niekro struck out the next three batters.

Richard took the mound for the top of the fourth and walked Murphy before coaxing what should have turned into a double-play ball, but a bad throw allowed Chambliss to reach first.

Chambliss was the last batter Richard ever faced. He signaled to the dugout and told the manager he was having trouble seeing the signs from catcher Alan Ashby and felt sick to his stomach.

Richard had told trainers for a few weeks he was suffering from a dead arm and ask for a month to rest, but the Astros were in the pennant race and didn’t put him on the DL until he left the Braves game.

Doctors found a blot clot limiting circulation to his pitching arm but said he could continue to work out. He was playing catch at the Astrodome on July 30 when he suffered a stroke and collapsed.