April 08, 2004
The J.R. Richard Story

A biopic of former Astros pitcher J.R. Richard is in the works.

Resurrection: The J.R. Richard Story will begin with Richard being rushed from the ballpark in an ambulance after collapsing from a stroke in 1980.

The movie starts shooting next month in Houston.

Through flashbacks, Richard will remember his youth and big-league career, especially 1976 to 1979, when he won 74 games for the Astros and was the most intimidating, scariest pitcher in the National League.


Bokeem Woodbine has been tabbed to play Richard in the biopic. Rice graduate Greg Carter is the director. Charlie Bethea is the executive producer.

Screenwriter Keith Kjornes said he was "completely captivated" by Richard's story when he researched the project.

"I'm not a sports fanatic, but when you look at this man's accomplishments -- wow!" Kjornes said.

"What fascinates me is the human element, how he was dragged into the gutter. There is no doubt that if stayed healthy, he would be in the Hall of Fame today. To go from the world of big league baseball to sleeping in a cardboard box -- and now to get his life back on track -- it's an incredible journey."

I think it's not totally clear that Richard would have made it to Cooperstown had he not had that stroke. He had some fine seasons, no question about it, but he wasn't really a full-time player until he was 25. As such, I think he'd have lagged in some career numbers. Assuming he continued at the same pace as the five full seasons he did have, he'd have been 35 or maybe 36 by the time he won his 200th game, which puts him on the fringes. Above 220 wins, especially with a good winning percentage (which he had) to go along with the strikeouts and low ERA, and he'd be pretty close to a lock. Wind the clock back to the start of the 1980 season and I'd have put his odds at above 50% for the Hall, with the main concern being sufficiently good health to ensure a long enough career. For sure it's a damn shame we never got to see him try.

And hey, you can be in the movie, too:

An open casting call for actors will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Doubletree Hotel, 5353 Westheimer.

"We're looking for everything from children to teammates to corporate baseball executives to groupies -- all the people you can imagine who inhabit a baseball star's life," casting director Benjamin Jimerson said.

I'm ready for my closeup.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 08, 2004 to Baseball | TrackBack

One can compare J.R. Richard with Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax in that all three pitchers did not fully develop until their mid-twenties. Koufax's first six years in the majors were far less impressive than his last six.

The thing that was scary about Richard was his intensity. I'm convinced he threw harder to first base on a ground ball than he ever did to the plate.

I'm convinced he would be in the Hall of Fame had he stayed healthy.

Posted by: William Hughes on April 8, 2004 11:33 AM

Nolan Ryan, for years considered to throw the ball harder than anyone else, had real competition for the title from JR Richard...and they were teammates.

JR Richard was one of my favorite Astros. Somewhere I have a baseball autographed by several Astros including Richard and Cesar Cedeno.

Posted by: Patrick on April 8, 2004 1:27 PM

The other thing about Richard, as I recall, was that he was so BIG and threw so hard. He was like a forerunner to Randy Johnson. I remember hearing Vin Scully describe him on the mound, and Vinnie seemed to be almost in awe sometimes (that from a guy whose job allowed him to see Koufax and Drysdale every week).

Posted by: Linkmeister on April 8, 2004 3:28 PM

Does anyone have a contact #/email for Benjamin Jimerson, Greg Carter or Charlie Bethea? I missed the audtions. Thanks.

Posted by: Diane Landry on April 11, 2004 9:29 PM

Sorry. Make that "auditions".

Posted by: Diane Landry on April 11, 2004 9:31 PM

When will the movie be out on DVD & VHS?

Posted by: La'Mont Pierce on September 5, 2005 7:27 PM