Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

J.R. Richard Homeless; Pals Try to Help

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

J.R. Richard Homeless; Pals Try to Help

Article excerpt

James Rodney Richard has known the glory of sports stardom and the difficulty of recovering from a life-threatening stroke.

Now the former All-Star pitcher knows the despair of homelessness.

Richard, 44, told The Houston Post he lost his house two years ago because he couldn't make the payments and has since lived with friends or under a freeway overpass.

Richard now works as a part-time solicitor for an asphalt company that provides him use of a truck and an apartment, but he has been unable to make much money and friends told the newspaper there's no telling how long the job or apartment will last.

He said on Friday that he had $20 to his name.

It's been a long, hard fall for Richard. A 6-foot-8, 240-pound righthander, he was one of baseball's most dominating pitchers when he played for the Houston Astros from 1971-80.

He was also among the highest-paid players of his time, earning some $850,000 a year.

That all ended on July 30, 1980, when Richard had a stroke that knocked him out of baseball and continues to haunt him.

"If I hadn't gotten sick, I could have broken all of Nolan Ryan's records," he said.

After a lengthy recovery came two broken marriages and a string of bad investments. He lost $300,000 in what turned out to be a bogus oil venture in California. His divorce from his first wife, with whom he has five children, cost him $669,000.

"I'm batting a flat .000 in my life with investments," he said.

When his barbecue business failed and he lost his home in a comfortable Houston subdivision, Richard said he moved from friend to friend for shelter.

Ultimately, he was left on the streets. Twice over the past 18 months, for "probably a week or so each time," he lived under a freeway in southwest Houston.

Virtually no one recognized him, amazing considering his size and once-immense popularity in Houston. …

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