Ex-Astros, Giants GM Richardson passes away at 93

HOUSTON -- H.B. "Spec" Richardson, the former general manager of the Astros and Giants, died Tuesday. He was 93.

The Muscogee County coroner's office confirmed to The Associated Press that Richardson died at his home in Columbus, Ga., of natural causes.

Richardson served as the Astros' GM from 1967-75, and in the same post for the Giants from '76-80.

Recalled Gary Lavelle, the Giants' top reliever during Richardson's San Francisco tenure, "Spec always had a cigar in his mouth, and had that Southern drawl. He was a really kind gentleman and a really good baseball man."

The Astros released a statement following his death:

"We join many others in the baseball world in mourning the passing of Spec Richardson, who served as the Astros' general manager from 1967-75. Spec enjoyed a long career in baseball, including 14 seasons overall in the Colt .45s/Astros organization, and several seasons as general manager of the San Francisco Giants. We send our deepest condolences to his family members and friends."

Richardson engineered several major deals in his time in Houston, including trading Rusty Staub to Montreal for Jack Billingham, Skip Guinn and cash considerations. He also dealt Joe Morgan, Denis Menke, Cesar Geronimo and Billingham to Cincinnati in 1971 for first baseman Lee May and others.

Richardson also traded pitcher Mike Cuellar, who played a major role for Baltimore's impressive 1970s clubs.

Former Astros player Enos Cabell, who currently serves as a special assistant to the general manager for Houston, was acquired by Richardson twice during his playing career.

"Spec was just a really good baseball man," Cabell said. "He traded for me when he was in Houston and then traded for me again when he was in San Francisco. He was in baseball a long time and handled a lot of roles. I'm very sad to hear of his passing."

In San Francisco, Richardson was named Major League Baseball's Executive of the Year in 1978, the year he acquired Vida Blue from the A's for $300,000 and seven players: catcher Gary Alexander, first baseman-outfielder Gary Thomasson, infielder Mario Guerrero and pitchers Dave Heaverlo, Phil Huffman, John Henry Johnson and Alan Wirth.

Though none of Oakland's acquisitions made a significant impact, Blue won 18 games in his first season with the Giants and sparked a revitalization of the franchise that had nearly moved to Toronto two years earlier. The Giants spent 95 days in first place in the National League West and more than doubled their home attendance in 1978, from 700,056 to 1,740,077.

That trade, Lavelle said, "was something that obviously benefited the Giants. It surprised a lot of people that Spec could do it. But it was good for us and good for the organization, of course. Spec knew how to wheel and deal."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.