Philadelphia Daily News - July 31, 1980
Cabell Knew J.R. Wasn’t Loafing
By Ted Silary
A torn rotator cuff, a popped elbow tendon, a touch of blasted bursitis. That, the sporting public could deal wiyh.
But when James Rodney Richard, the giant pitcher supreme of the Houston Astros, complained last month of a "tired arm" in the heat of a white-hot pennant race, all those subtle doubts concerning millionaire athletes and their supposed lack of desire raged to the surface.
Tired from what? That was the general consensus. Lifting a few too many beers? Caressing a few too many women? Surely the right arm of a fella with dimensions like 6-8. 237, could not be tuckered out from merely tossing baseballs.
Boy... if only the public had known.
Yesterday at 11:30 a.m. (CDT) the 30-year-old sensation was rushed to Methodist Hospital in Houston after collapsing during an Astrodome workout which included some running, some sidelines pitching and some long throws from the outfield.
THEN SHORTLY after 11 last evening, surgery was completed for the removal of a blood clot in Richard's neck that was labeled "life-threatening." He remains in an intensive care unit.
"All the writers around the country cut Richard up," flared third baseman Enos Cabell, who learned of J.R.'s status in the last inning of the Astros" 6-4 loss to the Phillies. "They said there was nothing wrong with him. Now. he is almost dying. I hope they're happy.
"All the papers did in Houston was poke fun at J R. Everybody took a turn. Now these writers come strolling in here (clubhouse) with their bleeping heads down as if they're in mourning or something. They don't know what the hell to say."
It should be noted that Cabell is Richard's closest friend on the ballclub and that his remarks, though probably on target, were tinted by rage and shock. One day, Cabell was talking to a "dude in pretty good spirits" and the next, he was not sure whether to cry or punch a hole in the nearest concrete wall.
Cabell and Richard both began their careers in earnest with the Astros in 1975 and have prided themselves by running on iron-man platforms. J R.. for example, started an average of 37 games in the years 1976-79. J R. was 10-4 in 17 starts this season and had an ERA of 1 89 with 119 strikeouts in 113⅔ innings.
YOU KNOW WHY that jakin’-it talk was ridiculous?" Cabell asked. "Because J R. went all those years and almost never missed a start. Then he says he is hurt and nobody believes him. OK. so ‘tired arm' does sound kind of funny. But damn. J R. isn't a doctor. He just knew that something was wrong and that was the one explanation he came up with.
"How quick they forget! He went out there every fourth or fifth game when this team was 35 games out of first several years back. Why the hell would J R. want to jake it when we're fighting for a pennant? That's bleep.
"Knowing J R., he was probably trying to push himself too quickly. He was dead set on returning to us as soon as possible."
Richard, the National League's starter in the July 8 All-Star game, was placed on the 21-day disabled list July 16. At one juncture. Dr. Harold Brelsford, the team physician, termed the problem "partly psychological."
"Prior to the surgery." noted Astros President Tal Smith, who addressed press representatives during the Phils eighth, "I am told that J.R. was awake, alert and cooperative and that his signs were as good as you could normally expect.
"Our immediate concern is the removal of the clot. If that goes well, which we certainly hope it will, then maybe we can get into his future as a pitcher. His future just living is much more important right now, though."
IN J.R.'s ABSENCE, Houston's starting rotation consists of a solid threesome – Ken Forsch, Nolan Ryan, Joe Niekro – along with some appearances from the likes of Joaquin Andujar, Vern Ruhle and rookie Gordie Pladson, newest in a long line of Phillie-killers. The Astros own a 1½-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West.
"Ever since June 17, when J.R. took himself out in the sixth inning of our win over the Cubs," noted Smith, "he has been unable to perform like the pitcher we know he is, even though he made a few more starts.
"But even so, our lead is basically what it was at that time (three games). We have some depth on our club and in our organization and we'll just have to make the best of it."
Smith's original plan was to keep the players in the dark about J.R.'s surgery until after the game but Cabell, and others, admitted that word leaked out just the same.
Once the clubhouse doors swung open, the tone generally was hushed and, though the players still advanced to the food spread, they did not attack it like most nights.
The sandwiches tasted a wee bit drier, the soda a wee bit flatter.
"ANY TIME YOU'RE talking about a blood clot that's close to your heart or your brain, you've got problems,." sighed Manager Bill Virdon. "I'm sure that's why the decision to operate was made so quickly.
"We certainly wish him well and hope that everything is taken care of. The way we feel now. we're not worried about when he's going to pitch again, we're more worried about his health."
Meanwhile, Cabell's worries go one step further.
"The first thing I want to see is some retractions," Enos said. "They (papers) all seemed to have in there that J.R. was not really hurt. But look at him now. I had better see some I'm-sorries."
Better yet, it would be nice to see some "He's-all-rights."
J.R.’s Surgery Successful
HOUSTON (UPI) – Cardiologists saved the life of Houston Astros All-Star pitcher J.R. Richard in an emergency operation to remove a blood clot that had cut off circulation to his right arm.
Richard was reported "fine" early this morning after a 90-minute operation that was completed less than 12 hours after he collapsed during a light workout on the Astrodome playing field yesterday.
Until the diagnosis of the clot. Richard's complaints of a "dead arm" the last two months had fallen on some deaf ears. Doctors in three examinations failed to pinpoint any physical ailments, and a few teammates publicly had criticized the high-priced athlete.
Official statements from Methodist Hospital, where the surgery was led by Dr. Charles H. McCollum III, did not indicate the life-and-death nature of the surgery, but an observer said the 30-year-old athlete's life was in danger.
"HELL, THEY WEREN'T worried about his arm; they were worried about his life." said an unidentified surgeon who did not take part in the operation but was briefed by the team of cardiologists.
Doctors discovered the clot in a subclavian artery behind Richard's right collarbone at about 5 p.m. as his teammates were preparing for a game in Philadelphia.
Team officials were kept apprised of the doctors' diagnosis, and after the game Cesar Cedeno said he hoped Richard would return to his old form, although it is a virtual certainty the righthander will not pitch again this season.
"J.R. hasn't missed a start in five years," Cedeno said. "Some people had some doubts about his pitching but none of the players. He never complained. It's very sad.
"I hope he'll be able to come back and be the same J R. he has been. It's frightening that something like this can happen to a young guy. He's the best righthander there is."
His wife, Carolyn, rushed to Richard's side when he was taken to the hospital and after learning of the impending surgery walked the hospital halls sobbing intermittently.
No one with the Astros' organization went to the hospital.
RICHARD HAD PLAYED catch with former Astro Wilbur Howard for 10 minutes late yesterday morning and sat in a dugout for 10 minutes before returning to the field for more throwing. Then he became dizzy and collapsed, an eyewitness said.
Trainer Doc Ewell, who observed the light workout, called for an ambulance and began applying water-soaked towels to the back of Richard's neck.
The 6-8 athlete remained conscious as he waited for an ambulance to enter the stadium and drive onto the field.
Team spokesman Rick Rivers said he watched Richard toss the ball.
"He was talking as he was throwing," Rivers said. "He didn't seem to be in any pain."
After complaining of a "dead arm" in pitching appearances during June, Richard was placed on the 21-day disabled list on July 16 with the understanding that he would be hospitalized for tests to determine the source of a mysterious ailment.
A team doctor, who was unable to diagnose any physical problem before Richard was hospitalized, said the problem was partly emotional. Richard's testing during the hospitalization included neurologicaLand psychological workups.
After being taken off the roster. Richard was allowed to rest at his home in Ruston, La. for a week. He entered the hospital last Wednesday, and when he was released Saturday the team said physicians had found an arterial circulation problem in his right shoulder. No surgery was required, the team said.
Richard was to have undergone another examination Tuesday in order to release him for pitching, but the Astros did not disclose any results of that scheduled exam.
Moreland Catches Fire
By Bill Conlin
Dick Ruthven has a habit of putting down his pitching performances.
But when he tells you he had nothing out there in a winning effort, believe that he was in basic command of the requisite pitches.
Pitchers with nothing don't win in the National or any other league. Ruthven is a perfectionist and his nothing is good enough for a lot of pitchers to win with.
If his point after the Phillies beat the Astros, 6-4. last night was to underline Keith Moreland's performance behind the plate, then Ruthven made it very well.
"Moreland is an awesome talent." Ruthven said after a game where the rookie catcher raised his average to .333 with two hits and a pair of RBI. "He can hit. he can catch and he can think." Ruthven's voice supplied boldface italics when he got to "think."
"I didn't have a thing." Dick said after raising his record to 10-7 with another professional effort. "Keith never caught me before, not even in spring training, but he was calling what I wanted to throw when I wanted to throw it. We talked before the game how I like to go to my off-speed pitches if I don't have outstanding stuff. He read me loud and clear. You can’t shake off a lot of pitches when you're going to go to the change-up and off-speed breaking stuff because hitters get the message that the catcher's putting down different fingers than what the pitcher wants to throw. He thought along with me frill night. I thought he did a great job."
MORELAND HASN'T been in a league yet where he hasn't hit, including the one he's in now. He graduated from Triple-A last summer with a .302 average. 20 homers and 109 RBI. When Bob Boone went in for knee surgery last September, the former Texas U. roving linebacker hit .375 in 14 games.
At 32. Boone is hardly washed up. The veteran catcher who started the 1979 All-Star Game for the National League is a master of his craft. Bob has never thrown better than he has since the All-Star break. He and Steve Carlton have resolved an ideological clash of strong wills to the satisfaction of both parties.
But Dallas Green is a bottom-line manager and the bottom line here is that Moreland is out-hitting Boone by more than 100 points and driving in runs. With Greg Luzinski temporarily out of the picture following knee surgery. Moreland appears to be the No. 5 hitter the Phillies need to get Mike Schmidt an occasional pitch to hit.
"I played Boone tonight (for defense in the eighth and ninth)." the manager said after watching Schmidt limp to the dugout in the our-run fifth after re-pulling his groin going from first to third. "We'll just go the way I feel. Right now, one guy's hitting .333 and the other guy's hitting .222. I don't think that needs a lot of explanation. Bob Boone means a lot to this club... But Keith has caught very successfully. Every game he's caught we've been in it. Until we got our fourth-place hitter hurt we felt we had to have a guy to fill that fifth spot."
TRAINER DON SEGER spoke cautiously of Schmidt's latest in a series of groin pulls. "I'll know more when he comes to the ballpark tomorrow," Seger said. "I'd rather not speculate. Some of our speculations have backfired lately. I don't want to say it's minor and have him out of the lineup. I don't want to say it's got potential to shut him down a while when that might not be, the case. He felt it sort of knot up on him on the way to third. Mike didn't have a lot of discomfort after we quieted it down, but the key is how it feels the next day."
The bottom line there is that if Schmidt suffers more down-time, Boone could wind up catching tomorrow night and Moreland could wind up batting cleanup and playing third base.
The crowd of 31,342 gave Keith warm applause when Boone replaced him in the eighth after Green brought Tug McGraw in to spell a weary Ruthven after back-to-back doubles by Jose Cruz and Cesar Cedeno. Moreland noticed.
"It's exciting to be out there and do something and get that kind of response," he said. "I've always had a pretty good approach to hitting. I'm not saying it's easy to hit big-league pitching; it's not. But I've been fortunate to get some chinkers that have fallen in and to hit some balls hard that have fallen in. When I'm not in the lineup I try to watch the pitching and take as much extra hitting as I can. I think it's easier to come off the bench to hit than it is to come off the bench to catch."
MORELAND IS watching what he says for public consumption these days. He did a live interview on a pre-game radio show when the Pirates were in town earlier in the month. Keith said that in his opinion, the Bucs didn't have the pitching to stay in the race the second half. He predicted the Phillies and Expos would go down to the wire the final weekend in Montreal. Dave Parker was among the Pirate clubhouse listeners and the mammoth rightfielder went out and clubbed two homers.
"No more predictions," Moreland said. "I embarrassed myself once about this. They had some (pitching) problems at the time I said it. It was a foolish young mistake. I shouldn't have popped off."
He's not popping off about his chances of supplanting Boone as the Phillies No. 1 catcher, either.
"I can't say I can do the things Bob Boone can," Moreland said. "He's the guy who's got to come on Friday night and take us all the way."
Nor is he apologizing for playing well enough to give Green heartburn over filling out the lineup card.
"I'M GETTING PAID to play here," Keith said. "Nobody expects you to go out and set the world on fire the first year or perform the way guys perform who have been here 10 years, but you've to produce something."
Moreland does not care to discuss the shape of the Phillies lineup a few years down the road, when it does not take a lot of imagination to figure that a position might have to open up for power-hitting Reading catcher Ozzie Virgil.
"I take some fungos at first and third base to keep busy," he said. "But I'm not thinking beyond this season and doing whatever I can do to help this team win a championship."
So let's take that at face value. Keith Moreland is having a splendid rookie season, hitting up a storm and performing beyond expectations on defense. It is, after all, what big-league players are paid to do.
PHILUPS: Nolan Ryan, who couldn't find the proper release point or rhythm with his breaking ball, shut out the Phils until they started sitting on his fastball in the fourth. They erupted for two runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth. Garry Maddox singled home a run in the fourth and Manny Trillo scored Mike Schmidt with a double... Dick Ruthven, who almost stopped a 95 MPH Ryan heater with his head in the fifth, roped a double off the fence in right. Schmidt walked to load the bases with two outs and Keith Moreland made it 4-3 with a single to right. Moreland went to second on Jeff Leonard's throw to the plate and Maddox drove in Schmidt and the catcher with a single to left after first baseman Danny Heep waved at his foul fly near the seats in shallow right... Tug McGraw, back in form, picked up his club-high ninth save after relieving Ruthven with a run home and nobody out in the eighth... The Phils finished the season series with a 9-3 advantage over the Western Division leaders. It is hard to see how Houston can hang on without the stricken J.R. Richard, even in the weak Western Division. The Phils have today off, then the resurgent Reds come in for the weekend. Bob Walk will go for No. 8 tomorrow night against Bill Bonham... Ruthven was coming off a 163-pitch, 12-inning effort against Atlanta. "He admitted that he ran out of gas as early as he ever has," Dallas Green said.
There were three winners last night in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. Winners of four tickets each to a Phillies game were John J. Barrett. Annie Campbell and Rose Sanitate, all of Philadelphia.
So far. the Daily News has paid out $13,560.
Today's entry coupon appears on Page 54.