Six Foot Eight Dodger nemesis J.R. Richard stood in the Dodgers way of history
The 2015 Dodgers hit a home run in fourteen consecutive games but were unable to tie the 1977 team with home runs in fifteen consecutive games. The 1977 NL Champions boasted four players with at least thirty home runs. When the Dodgers did that in 1977, it was the first time in history that had been accomplished.
But it wasn’t easy. Going into the final game on October 2nd, 1977, the Dodgers were hosting the Houston Astros, and on the mound was the nastiest pitcher in baseball at the time, J.R. Richard. Steve Garvey had his 33 home runs. Reggie Smith had blasted 32. Ron Cey had topped out at 30. Dusty Baker was still one short, and for Dusty to join the triplets, and make them a quartet he would need to do something he’d never done. Hit a home run off of J.R. Richard. Heck, he could barely get a hit off of J.R. much less a home run.
The last time the LAD faced J.R. he had beaten them 2- 1 by pitching 10 innings, striking out 12. Things didn’t look much different this time. Headed into the bottom of the sixth inning, Houston was leading 2 – 0, and J.R. had already punched out nine Dodgers. Maybe J.R. lost his focus but in the bottom of the sixth, the Dodgers would hit three home runs. Thirty-nine-year-old Manny Mota would lead off with a pinch-hit home run. It would be the last home run that Manny Mota would ever hit. Two outs later Dusty Baker was up, still searching for his 30th home run. On a 1 – 2 count Dusty would a launch a J.R. fastball into the pavilion giving him 30 home runs on the year and the LAD the first team in history with four players with thirty home runs. Even stranger, Glenn Burke would hit the final home run of the inning. Glenn Burke only hit two home runs in his entire career.
Little note Glenn Burke, in 2011 he was nominated for entry into the Baseball Reliquary, not so much for anything he did on the baseball field but for being a pioneer in another area altogether.
Glenn Burke (1952‒1995)—A stylish, speedy outfielder whose career was undermined by raging homophobia, Glenn Burke spent parts of four seasons patrolling the pasture for the Dodgers and A’s in the late 1970s. Remembered as MLB’s first openly gay player, Burke had the great misfortune to debut under the aegis of Tommy Lasorda, no friend to gay men, and was treated as a pariah by many of his teammates. He is widely-cited as the originator of the “high five” hand slap, a form of salutation and congratulations that quickly spread throughout the world. He died from AIDS-related illness at the absurdly young age of 42.
The Dodgers would go on to lose the game 6 – 3, J.R. would pitch a complete game victory, his only blemish those three solo home runs in the sixth inning. This game didn’t matter, the Dodgers had clinched the NL Western division long before.
Dusty Baker would end his career with a .157 batting average against J.R. Richard in 70 at bats.
If you don’t know anything about J.R. Richard I suggest giving this a read. He had quite a life, reaching the heights of the baseball world, being felled by a stroke near his prime, becoming homeless, and once again finding recognition.
He had the greatest stuff I have ever seen and it still gives
me goosebumps to think of what he might have become”
Joe Morgan, Hall of Famer