May 22, 2013
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Saturday, September 29, 2012
It was 15,000 days ago that a pitcher made one of the greatest debuts in baseball history. And as it happened, the pitcher went on to be a bit more than a one-game wonder, too.
It was a young hurler for the Houston Astros named J.R. Richard.
15,000 days ago was Sept. 5, 1971, and the giant 6-foot8 fastball-throwing Richard took the hill to start against the Giants in San Francisco.
The first inning was a bit rocky for Richard. Leading off, Ken Henderson singled sparking a rally that scored two runs. Even in this inning, Richard showed a flash of what he was capable as he struck out the legendary Willie Mays.
In the second inning, Richard shut the Giants down while striking out his second batter, but he really found his stride in the third. First up, Tito Fuentes. Strikeout. Then the great Mays. Richard struck him out again. Then came Bobby Bonds. He was a great young player in his prime, but the year before, Bonds had set a single-season record with 189 whiffs. Richard got him to complete a striking out of the side.
And Richard was off. He didn’t strike anyone out in the fourth, but he made up for that by getting a pair in the fifth and another pair in the sixth. That was nine punchouts through two-thirds of the game. Meanwhile, Houston’s offense rallied to give him a 5-2 lead.
Richard got his 10th strikeout in the seventh inning. In the eighth, despite allowing an unearned run, Richard got another two strikeouts. That gave him an even dozen heading into the final frame. There, for the second time on the day, Richard struck out the side.
That gave him 15 whiffs in all. Not bad for a guy making his debut. In fact, it was one of the greatest debuts of all time. Richard would become a great strikeout artist, twice leading the league (1978-79), with over 300 Ks in a season each time. Unfortunately, in his prime, tragedy struck and Richard suffered a blood clot that nearly killed him.
But that was in the future. 15,000 days ago, Richard had as good a day as any first-time arm ever had.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim through things.
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