Bob Forsch career highlights

It’s been a rough week for former baseball players. First Matty Alou dies and then the next day news that Bob Forsch passes on at the far too young age of 61.

When this happens, it’s time to reflect on the man and his career. Others can do a better job than I on the former, but I can provide something for the latter.

Below are a list of his career highlights: his most important games, greatest (and worst) moments, and some of the stranger and more memorable events he took part in or for which he was merely an on-hand observer.

Here it is for the former Cardinals and Astros pitcher, with the events listed in chronological order:

St. Louis Cardinals years

July 7, 1974: Forsch makes his big league debut. Against the mighty Cincinnati offense, he throws 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and five walks. The first batter he faces, Pete Rose, flies out to left. Later on, Johnny Bench becomes his first strikeout victim. Despite that, Forsch becomes the tough-luck loser as Cincinnati triumphs, 2-1.

Sept. 11, 1974: Forsch starts one of the longest games of all time, a 25-inning marathon in Shea Stadium in which the Cardinals triumph, 4-3. The team pulls Forsch for a pinch-hitter after six innings, during which time he allows all three Mets runs. St. Louis’ bullpen holds the Mets scoreless for 19 innings. The star is Claude Osteen, whose 9.1 inning relief stint is the next-to-last time an NL reliever lasts nine innings in a game.

Sept. 25, 1974: It’s one of the biggest starts Forsch ever will have. St. Louis hosts the Pittsburgh with the NL East at stake. The Pirates trail the Cardinals by a half-game in the division as the game begins. Forsch, however, does not have it, allowing five runs in just a third of an inning before being pulled.

Fortunately for him and the team, the offense roars back and wins a roller coaster game, 13-12 in 11 innings. It’s 9-9 heading into the 11th when Pittsburgh forces three in the top before St. Louis amazingly comes back to win in the bottom of the frame.

July 23, 1975: Forsch picks up the win in St. Louis’ 5-4 win over Los Angeles, though the end is more exciting than Forsch would like. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Forsch surrenders back-to-back pinch-hit home runs to Willie Crawford and Lee Lacy. The team pulls Forsch to get the last out to clinch the win.

Aug. 24, 1975: With Forsch pitching for St. Louis, star outfielder Lou Brock steals his 800th career base. The Cardinals top the Braves, 5-1.

Sept. 26, 1975: Forsch, in his final start of the season, tosses a complete-game shutout, one of 19 in his career. This is a special one because it’s the first of two 1-0 shutout wins for Forsch. The run comes in the bottom of the first in memorable fashion as Lou Brock scores all the way from first on a Ted Simmons single to right. Forsch tosses a three-hitter against the Pirates for the win. This is his best-ever WPA game: 0.731 WPA.

Sept. 24, 1976: It’s a one-of-a-kind game for Forsch. He tosses a nine-inning complete game without fanning a single batter, the only time he does that. He picks up the win as the Cardinals top the Pirates, 10-6.

Sept. 27, 1977: Forsch tosses a complete-game victory over the Expos to improve his record to 20-6. He’ll finish the season 20-7, his only 20-win season.

April 12, 1978: Forsch fans nine batters in one game, his all-time high. He allows one run on four hits and three walks as the Cardinals beat the Pirates 5-1.

April 16, 1978: He does it. In a game against the Phillies, Forsch tosses a no-hitter, guiding the Cardinals to a 5-0 win. It’s a perfect game until a one-out walk to Richie Hebner in the fifth inning. He also walks Greg Luzinski later, but those are the only men to reach base against him. Forsch fans only three batters, all in a stretch of four batters that face him after the Hebner walk.

July 25, 1978: Forsch allows a walk-off home run, the first of four he surrenders in his career. As an extra bonus, this is the only one by a pinch hitter, San Francisco’s Mike Ivie for a 3-2 Giants win. It’s actually a very exciting end all around. It’s 0-0 until the bottom of the eighth when the Giants score a run, then St. Louis replies with a pair in the top of the ninth, then the Ivie blast off Forsch to end the game. Forsch will later allow walk-off homers in 1979, 1980, and 1982.

Aug. 4, 1978: Normally, Forsch has good control. He’ll lead the league in fewest walks per nine innings in 1980 and be in the top ten each season from 1979-82, but today he doesn’t have it. Forsch walks seven, his all-time most. The Mets triumph, 8-3.

May 11, 1979: Forsch has had better days pitching, but he’s never had such a good game at the plate. He goes 3-for-3 in his only three-hit game. In fact, he allows the same number of hits as he gets. Unfortunately for Forsch, all his hits surrendered lead to runs as the Cardinals fall to the Braves, 3-0. It’s a no-hitter until a home run in the seventh by Jeff Burroughs.

Aug. 16, 1979: Forsch has the longest outing of his career, pitching a full 10 innings. Ultimately, he gets the no-decision as the Dodgers beat the Cardinals, 4-2 in 15 innings.

April 27, 1980: It’s a windy day at Wrigley Field, as the Cubs defeat the Cards, 16-12, on a walk-off grand slam by Barry Foote. Forsch suffers through a rough day in the hitter-friendly environment. His line is: 4.2 IP, 14 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, and 2 K for a career-worst Game Score of zero.

May 31, 1980: Forsch allows an inside-the-park home run to future Hall of Famer Gary Carter. It’s the second and last such shot Forsch gives up, having allowed one to Andre Thornton in 1975.

Sept. 13, 1980: It’s one of the nicest signs of respect Forsch ever gets for his bat. A career .213 hitter with 12 homers, he hits .295 with three long balls in 1980, when St. Louis interim manager Red Schoendienst shows how much he trusts Forsch’s bat. There are two outs and none on in the bottom of the ninth with the Cardinals trailing the Phillies 2-1. The pitcher’s slot is due up and rather than turn to a pinch-hitter, Forsch steps to the plate to hit for himself, and strikes out to end the game.

May 18, 1982: Forsch wins his eighth straight game, his best streak, in a 2-0 shutout victory over the Padres. He’s 5-0 on the season to that point.

June 4, 1982: Forsch achieves a nice career milestone, winning his 100th game in a 5-2 victory over the Dodgers. His career record is 100-75. He’ll be 68-61 the rest of his career.

Sept. 8, 1982: For the second and last time in his career, Forsch wins a 1-0 game with a complete-game shutout. Keith Hernandez triples in the third to drive in Ken Oberkfell for the game’s only run.

Sept. 13, 1982: Forsch gets one of the biggest pennant race starts of his life as St. Louis takes on the Phillies while holding a half-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL East. Forsch doesn’t have a chance, as Philadelphia ace Steve Carlton not only throws a complete-game shutout and bashes a home run off Forsch for good measure.

It’s the fourth time Carlton’s had that combination in his career, and he’s the only person to do it in three different decades. St. Louis will win the division anyway.

Oct. 7, 1982: NLCS Game One: In his first postseason start, Forsch brings his “A” game. He tosses a three-hit, complete-game shutout over the Braves for a 7-0 win. St. Louis will sweep the series.

Oct. 12, 1982; World Series Game One: Forsch’s second postseason start is the second one to end in a complete-game shutout. Unfortunately, Milwaukee’s Mike Caldwell tosses it, leading the Brewers to a 10-0 win. Forsch allows six runs, four earned, on 10 hits in 5.2 IP.

Oct. 17, 1982; World Series Game Five: The Brewers beat Forsch and the Cardinals, 6-4, to pull just one win away from the world title. Forsch pitches pretty well, allowing just three earned runs (and a fourth unearned run) in seven innings. St. Louis will win the next two games for Forsch’s only world title. Random comment: Robin Yount goes 7-for-8 against Forsch in this Series, and the .875 batting average is the best ever against Forsch by someone with more than four at-bats.

Sept. 5, 1983: In a wild, 7-6 St. Louis 10-inning victory over the Pirates, Forsch picks off two runners. He’ll never pick off another runner again in the remaining six years of his career. Go figure. To be exact, he’ll pitch another 874.1 IP after his last pickoff.

Sept. 26, 1983: Forsch becomes the only pitcher in history to throw two no-hitters for the St. Louis Cardinals when he shuts down the Expos, 3-0, on this day. It’s nearly a perfect game as he also walks none, but two men reach with two outs in the second inning. First Forsch hits Gary Carter, and then Chris Speier reaches on an error by second baseman Ken Oberkfell. The next 22 in a row go down. Forsch also fans six and ends the day with a career-best Game Score: 93.

April 10, 1984: Forsch allows a pinch-hit grand slam to San Diego’s Champ Sumners. It’s one of only five slams Forsch allows and one of just seven pinch-hit homers. It proves to be the difference as the Padres win, 7-3.

May 31, 1984: Something happens. Forsch has a good day, pitching five shutout innings on three hits and one walk, but after getting pulled for a pinch hitter in the top of the sixth, Forsch won’t return until September. He’s shut down with an injury.

May 12, 1985: It’s not the only time Forsch allows one batter to belt two home runs in one game off of him, but it must be the most embarrassing time. Today, the big bat belongs to San Francisco’s Jim Gott, who is a pitcher. Yeah, that’s bad. It proves to be the difference, as the Giants win, 5-4. Forsch allows five homers from opposing pitchers in his career, with the others coming from Bill Gullickson, Steve Carlton, and Larry Dierker.

Oct. 14, 1985: NLCS Game Five: Forsch does a good job in his only appearance in the NLCS, allowing two runs in five innings, but he gets the no-decision as St. Louis doesn’t score the go-ahead run until a crazy walk-off home run by Ozzie Smith of all people in the bottom of the ninth for a 3-2 win. Both LA runs come on a Bill Madlock home run in the fourth inning.

Oct. 24, 1985: World Series Game Five: St. Louis leads the World Series three games to one and need just one more win to become world champions. Forsch doesn’t have it, though, allowing four runs on five hits and a walk while getting only five outs. The Royals win, 6-1.

On a random note, it’s odd how Whitey Herzog used his starters in this postseason. In both NLCS and World Series, he had his Game One starter go again in Game Four, and then he went with Forsch instead of the Game Two guy in the fifth contest. I’m not making a complaint, it’s just different.

Oct. 27, 1985: World Series Game Seven: It’s probably the most famous game that Forsch ever appears in, and if you’re a Cardinals fan it’s famous for all the wrong reasons. Do you remember the clip of the always-emotional St. Louis pitcher Joaquin Andujar being ejected from the game kicking and screaming? Well, after that ejection, St. Louis put Forsch on the mound. By that time the game was already 10-0 with the bases loaded. Forsch’s first pitch is a run-scoring wild pitch to make it 11-0. He avoids any further damage, and the final is 11-0.

June 27, 1986: Against Philadelphia, Forsch allows one run in nine innings, but its turns out that the game is barely halfway over. With the score tied 1-1 after nine, the bullpens take over, and it lasts 17 innings until Philadelphia wins, 2-1.

July 7, 1986: Forsch endures one of the toughest losses of his career, a complete game, 1-0 loss on an unearned run. In the first inning, left fielder Vince Coleman misplays a single that allows Los Angeles’ Ken Landreaux to score from first.

Aug. 10, 1986: Forsch has long been one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball, but he never takes a better swing than today. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth, Forsch goes deep for his only career grand slam. It’s the big hit of the game, as St. Louis tops Pittsburgh, 5-4.

Sept. 12, 1986: Forsch is on a roll lately at the plate. Just a month after his only grand slam, he connects for his only career three-run homer. His second-inning blast off Montreal’s Floyd Youmans puts St. Louis ahead, 3-2. Unfortunately, Forsch’s teammates aren’t hitting as well has he is, and Montreal wins in 11 innings, 4-3.

Sept. 22, 1986: Forsch not only hits unexpected homers in late 1986, he also allows them. Mets batter Wally Backman goes deep on Forsch in the seventh inning of this game for his only homer of the year. It’s in the midst of a stretch where he has five homers in seven seasons. New York wins, 5-2.

Oct. 7, 1987: NLCS Game Two: Though a starter in the regular season, Whitey Herzog turns Forsch into a reliever in the postseason. He pitches an inning of relief at the end of St. Louis’ 5-0 loss to the Giants in this game. He’ll pitch in three games in the NLCS, and all are in relief.

Oct. 9, 1987: NLCS Game Three: Forsch comes in during the fifth inning after the Cardinals pinch-hit for their starting pitcher. He pitches two scoreless innings before departing in a game St. Louis wins, 6-5.

Oct. 11, 1987: NLCS Game Five: After a pair of forgettable relief appearances so far in the NLCS, Forsch has a disastrous one. Called on to pitch long relief in the fourth inning, he fails to get a single out. He’ll allow four runs (including two inherited runners who score after Forsch departs), and that’s the difference as the Giants win, 6-3. Fortunately, St. Louis wins the next pair of games to claim the pennant.

Oct. 17, 1987: World Series Game One: Forsch is again in the bullpen, and again St. Louis loses when he pitches. In this game, he makes an ugly situation much uglier. He enters the game with the bases loaded and none out in the bottom of the fourth and the Twins leading, 2-1. Forsch promptly allows an RBI single and then a grand slam to make it 7-1. An inning later, he surrenders a two-run homer to make it 9-1. Minnesota wins easily, 10-1.

Oct. 21, 1987: World Series Game Four: Forsch again enters in the fourth inning during a Minnesota rally, and this time thwarts it. It’s 1-1 with two out and two on when he enters and fans Greg Gagne. When St. Louis takes the lead a little later, Forsch earns the win on the day.

Oct. 24, 1987: World Series Game Six: Forsch again come in during a rally, and the results aren’t good, though not as bad as Game One. He enters in the sixth with St. Louis trailing, 6-5. There are no outs and a runner on first. Forsch walks two (one intentionally) and gets two outs before Whitey Herzog yanks him. Ken Dayley, the new reliever, issues a first-pitch grand slam to Kent Hrbek ice the game for Minnesota.

May 14, 1988: It’s one of the wildest and weirdest games Forsch ever takes part in. The Cardinals lose, 7–5, to the Braves in 19 innings. Forsch pitches three innings, from the 12th to 14th, allowing just one hit along the way. However, shortly after Forsch leaves, the Cardinals completely run out of relievers. They’re forced to use infielder Jose Oquendo on the mound. He goes four innings, allowing two runs on four hits and six walks. He also fans a batter, opposing pitcher Rick Mahler.

Houston Astros years

Sept. 5, 1988: In his first game with his new team, Forsch makes his presence felt right away. Not only does he throw eight shutout innings versus the Reds, but in the bottom of the fifth he hits a bases-loaded, two-out double off Norm Charlton to drive in three runs. Those are the only three runs that score all day in the Astros’ 3-0 victory.

Aug. 3, 1989: This has got to be the worst game of Forsch’s life. In the bottom of the first, the Reds jump all over Houston’s starting pitcher Jim Clancy with six hits and a walk and no outs. Enter Forsch. Here’s how his day begins: double, wild pitch, ground out, double, single, single, single, single, double, single, single, single, flyout, flyout. In all, 20 batters come to the plate, and 17 of the first 18 reach base on 16 hits and a walk.

Since the Reds lead 14-0, Art Howe decides to leave Forsch in and save his bullpen. He pitches seven innings, allowing 10 runs on 18 hits—but at least he doesn’t walk anyone.

Sept. 25, 1989: Forsch makes his last stand. Called on in relief in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and only one out, he fans Lonnie Smith for his 1,133rd career strikeout. He then walks Darrell Evans to force in a run. Then Forsch takes a walk to the showers, ending his career. It’s the first time Forsch has walked in a run in seven years. By random happenstance the last person he did it to was Art Howe, his manager in Houston

It’s not a storybook ending, but players rarely ever get those.

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Comments

  1. Mike said...

    Great article, and a great trip down memory lane for a Cardinal fan who was a kid in 1974 and followed Forsch through his whole career.

    I think you forgot to mention the “error” by Ken Reitz in the first no-hitter.

    Regarding the 1985 post season—in the second half of the regular season, the Cardinals basically went to a 4 man rotation to fend off the Mets.  However, near the very end of the regular season, Andujar and Forsch both hit walls and stopped pitching effectively, and Danny Cox had some sort of arm problem (bone chips in the elbow, I think) so that even though he could continue to pitch, and pitch well, he could not pitch on short rest.  As a result, in the playoffs, Herzog used Tudor on short rest, Cox on regular rest, and worked in Andujar and Forsch for the other starts (and hoped for the best when they pitched.)

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