In the 70s, J.R. Richard,
a star Houston Astro hurler,
possessed an overpowering fastball
and a wicked 93 mph slider.
In 1980, when he took his turn
in the starting pitchers rotation,
the 6’9’’ ace complained of a “dead arm.”
Some players questioned his motivation,
implied he magnified his ailments.
After considerable delay, an angiogram
revealed an obstructed right subclavian artery,
the vessel that supplied his pitching arm.
At first, doctors felt he didn’t need surgery
but weeks later he suffered a stroke resulting in
impaired coordination, partial paralysis,
and distorted depth perception—
the original clot had extended to also
block his right carotid artery, impeding flow
to his brain. After months of rehab
and bypass grafts, he did initially show
improvement but further complications
developed and he became another name
on the long list of might have beens.
He never appeared in another big league game.
By the late 80s and early 90s,
beset by financial losses and marital woes,
he ended up homeless, sleeping near
a Houston underpass, in the throes
of depression, disarrayed and destitute.
However, aided by a local minister,
J.R. Richard rose, dusted himself off,
went on to become a lay preacher,
set up a youth program and sure enough,
showed he still had his good stuff.