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Harold Beland "Spec" Richardson (October 27, 1922 – April 12, 2016) served as the General Manager for the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball from 1967 to 1975. He took over for Tal Smith and Paul Richards, each of whom built one of the most talented farm systems in baseball. The native of Columbus, Georgia, began his baseball career in 1946 as concessions manager of the minor league Columbus Cardinals of the Class A Sally League, and switched to the rival Jacksonville Tars (later the Braves) in 1949, staying with that franchise through 1958. In 1962, Houston's debut MLB season (as the Colt .45s), Richardson was listed as the club's business manager.
Richardson traded 31-year-old Mike Cuellar to the Baltimore Orioles for Curt Blefary in 1968, who would stay in Houston for a single season before being traded once again to the Yankees for Joe Pepitone. Pepitone would only stay one year in the Astrodome before going to the Chicago Cubs. Cuellar, however, was a key component of the Earl Weaver Orioles' pitching staff.
Richardson then traded Rusty Staub – a 24-year-old outfielder and first baseman who displayed remarkable ability to hit for high average and decent power (leading the league in doubles in 1967) within the confines of the cavernous Astrodome – to the Montreal Expos for Jesús Alou and Donn Clendenon. Clendenon refused to report, however, and Montreal instead sent Jack Billingham, Skip Guinn, and cash. The club may have felt that Staub's ankle problems would shorten his career, but Staub instead continued his exceptional hitting in Montreal, Detroit, and New York. John Mayberry – another young first base prospect – was traded to the Kansas City Royals for mediocre bullpen help. There he became an integral part of the Royals.
However, Richardson's most memorable trade featured Joe Morgan, the Astros' young second baseman, who was shifted (along with 4 time gold glove winner César Gerónimo, infielder Denis Menke, utility outfielder Ed Armbrister and starting pitcher Jack Billingham) to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for first baseman Lee May, second baseman Tommy Helms and utility infielder Jimmy Stewart. Morgan went on to become the offensive heart of the Big Red Machine, who would later win back to back World Series championships in both 1975 and 1976 and is widely held by many to be the greatest second baseman of the second half of the 20th century.
That trade is generally regarded as being one of the most lopsided in the history of Major League Baseball.
To his credit, Richardson recognized César Cedeño as a potential superstar, but the Astros spent his tenure and several years after it mired in mediocrity. Sabermetric research shows that the Astros would likely have been the best team in the National League throughout much of the 1970s. Instead, the team would not appear in the playoffs until 1980.
- Steve Treder. "The virtual 1972 Houston Astros (Part 1)". The Hardball Times.
- Steve Treder. "The Virtual 1972 Houston Astros (Part 2)". The Hardball Times.
- "The Worst Trades in Astros History".
- "Former Astros, Giants GM Spec Richardson dies at 93". statesman.com.