LADY AT THE BAT: By The Numbers, Retired & Otherwise

Thursday, April 5, 2007

By The Numbers, Retired & Otherwise

Thanks to Ken Griffey, Jr, jersey number 42 will be un-retired, for one day only. On April 15th MLB will commemorate the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, integrating America's Pastime. Griffey, who wore 42 ten years ago for the 50th anniversary, asked Commissioner Bud Selig if he could do it again this April 15th. Selig not only granted permission, but he also extended an invitation to other players around MLB to wear the number if they are so inclined. It'll be interesting see what players choose to wear the number. Will only African-American players wear it? If I were a betting lady, I'd put my money on that. Let's see what happens.

Speaking of retired numbers, Jeff Pearlman has written a rather witty piece for Page 2, in which he calls for JR Richard's number 50 to be added to the Houston Astros' list of never-to-be-worn agains. Richard was probably the premier pitcher of the National League in the 1970s. In 10 seasons he compiled a 107-71 record with a 3.15 ERA. He was in the top five in strikeouts five times, twice leading the league and finishing second two other times. In 1979 he struck out a record 313 batters, which stood as a record for right-handed pitchers for over 20 years. In the article Pearlman quotes Joe Morgan as saying, "He had the greatest stuff I've ever seen, and it still gives me goose bumps to think of what he might have become."

What he might have become. Might have, because his career was cut short by a debilitating stroke. In 1980 Richard complained of shoulder and back pain, and said he also had a dead arm. Unfortunately no one would listen to him. Coaches, teammates, and the media all thought he was a lazy liar. But on July 30th of that year he collapsed during pregame throwing drills and might have died, had he not had emergency surgery.

Richard was never able to get his career back on track after the stroke. He also went through other personal problems: two divorces and a loss of almost $400,000 in a business scam. By 1994 he was living under a bridge in Houston.

Pearlman's tongue-in-cheek article aside, I think the Houston Astros missed the "spaceship" on this one. They should retire JR Richard' number, and do it real soon.

The Lady

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