Here's a card I was psyched to design, a 1972 "Highlight" card celebrating a player I was really into as a kid before his career was tragically cut short: J.R. Richard of the Houston Astros and his explosive big league debut.
Check it out:
Richard made quite the splash in his first Major League appearance on September 5th of 1971, striking out FIFTEEN San Francisco Giants, thus tying Brooklyn Dodger Karl Spooner's rookie record from 1954.
Among his strikeout victims was none other than Willie Mays, whom Richard K'd three times that day, as well as Bobby Bonds, who struck out twice.
All told Richard pitched a complete game, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits, while walking three and picking up the win.
But it wasn't until the 1975 season that Richard began dominating batters as a full-time starter, striking out 176 batters while going 12-10 with a 4.39 earned run average over 203 innings.
From 1976 to 1979, Richard was down-right nasty, striking out 200 or more batters, including 300+ in both 1978 and 1979 (leading the N.L. in K's each time), as well as posting 18 or more wins and 3+ shutouts each season.
1980 was shaping up to be more of the same, as Richard was 10-4 with a 1.90 E.R.A. and 119 K's through only 113.2 innings.
But on July 30th, 1980, while playing a game of catch before a game, Richard suffered a stroke that ended his career in an instant, requiring emergency surgery to remove a life-threatening blood clot in his neck.
Though he tried a comeback once he recovered, the stroke caused enough damage to prevent him from ever playing in another Major League game.
A tragic end to one of the most promising careers in the Majors at the time.
It would have been incredible to see Richard team up with new Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan and see how many K's they could have racked up.