Bob Forsch

July 12, 1974: Bob Forsch throws a complete-game shutout for his first career win

Bob Forsch wasn’t leaving his first major league win to chance.

After losing his debut appearance with just two runs allowed over 6 2/3 innings, Forsch returned five days later, on July 12, 1974, and threw nine shutout innings to lead the Cardinals to a 10-0 victory in the second game of a double-header against the Braves.

A Sacramento, California, native selected by the Cardinals in the 26th round of the 1968 draft, Forsch began his career as a third baseman. In 1970, the Cardinals moved him to the pitcher’s mound, where he began working his way up from the low-A affiliate in Lewiston, Idaho. After going 8-5 with a 3.67 ERA with Triple-A Tulsa, Forsch was called up to replace the injured Sonny Siebert.

Despite walking five batters in his debut, Forsch held the Reds to just four hits. However, Cesar Geronimo struck with an RBI double in the second inning and a solo home run in the seventh. A second-inning home run from Ted Simmons provided Forsch his only run support in the 2-1 loss.

On July 12, Forsch took his second shot at his first big league win. He had perhaps the unenviable task of following Bob Gibson in the second game of a double-header. Gibson, who entered the game with 2,997 strikeouts, was poised to make history against the Braves, but with only two K’s, he finished the day one shy of becoming just the second pitcher in history to reach the 3,000-strikeout milestone.

“I just sat there kind of in awe,” Forsch said. “He was so close to punching it out. I never dreamed two weeks ago I’d be sitting in the dugout watching history.”[1]

Following the Cardinals’ 7-3 loss to the Braves, it was Forsch’s turn to take the mound before the crowd of 51,267, at the time the seventh-largest crowd in Busch Stadium history.[2]

“It was scary when I first went out there, with all those people,” Forsch said. “I didn’t look up in the stands because there seemed to be so many people.”[3]

Forsch’s fears didn’t last long. He retired the side in order in the first inning, then benefitted from a nine-run Cardinals rally. In all, 13 Redbirds stepped to the plate as Reggie Smith drove in four runs with a sacrifice fly and a three-run triple. Bake McBride hit an RBI double and Joe Torre and Mike Tyson each hit RBI singles as the Cardinals scored nine runs on four hits and two Braves errors.

From there, Forsch took control of the game. He retired the first 10 batters he faced before Craig Robinson singled to center field. In the fifth, he worked around a one-out error before retiring the next eight hitters he faced.

Forsch even got the first hit of his career, a single to left field, in the third inning. Afterwards, he couldn’t wait to tell his wife, who had noted his struggles at the plate in his debut. It had been two years since Forsch had taken an at-bat after playing two years in the American Association, where the designated hitter was used.

“When I called her in Tulsa after the game (against the Reds), she didn’t say a thing about my pitching,” Forsch said. “All she said was, ‘Boy, your hitting was terrible.’”[4]

After McBride hit an RBI single to right field to give the Cardinals a 10-0 lead, Forsch returned to the hill in the ninth inning looking to close out his first victory. Vic Correll led off the inning with a single, and with one out, Darrell Evans singled as well. With runners at first and second, however, Forsch got Dusty Baker to hit into a 6-4-3, game-ending double play.

With the shutout, Forsch lowered his ERA to 1.15 through his first 15 2/3 major league innings.

“Although Forsch is a mere 2,992 strikeouts behind Gibson, the kid already looks as if he’s ready to help the Cardinals the way Gibby has for so many years,” Neal Russo wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.[5]

Forsch’s shutout took just 92 pitches, including 72 fastballs. Of the 31 Braves that stepped to the plate, only two worked the count to three balls.[6]

“I threw mostly fastballs after getting that lead,” Forsch said. “I didn’t want to relax and get behind the hitters.”[7]

Forsch was rocked in his next start, allowing seven earned runs in just 2/3 of an inning, but rebounded nicely with complete-game wins in each of his next two appearances. He finished the season with a 7-4 record and a 2.97 ERA in 100 innings pitched.

It marked the start of a 16-year career that included 15 seasons with the Cardinals. He retired following the 1989 season with 168 wins, 163 of which came with the Cardinals, and two no-hitters (you can read about his first no-hitter here and his second here). Forsch was inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2015.

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[1] Paul LeBar, “Forsch Brings Redbirds Split,” Springfield Leader and Press, July 13, 1974.

[2] Neal Russo, “Big Days Ahead For Cards’ Forsch, Gibson,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 13, 1974.

[3] Neal Russo, “Big Days Ahead For Cards’ Forsch, Gibson,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 13, 1974.

[4] Neal Russo, “Redbirds’ Rookie Bare Eager To Prove Point,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 14, 1974.

[5] Neal Russo, “Big Days Ahead For Cards’ Forsch, Gibson,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 13, 1974.

[6] Neal Russo, “Big Days Ahead For Cards’ Forsch, Gibson,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 13, 1974.

[7] Neal Russo, “Big Days Ahead For Cards’ Forsch, Gibson,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 13, 1974.

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