Bob Forsch

August 10, 1986: Bob Forsch hits a grand slam to top the Pirates, 5-4

Bob Forsch may have made his name as a pitcher, but the Sacramento, California, native originally was drafted for his bat. On August 10, 1986, the veteran right-hander used both to lift the Cardinals to a 5-4 victory over the Pirates.

Upon joining the Cardinals’ farm system, the 26th-round 1968 draft pick played third base and outfield, but failed to rise above Class A. In 1970, the Cardinals converted him to a pitcher, and in 1974 he made his major-league debut.

Heading into the match-up against the last-place Pirates, Forsch already had 11 wins with a 2.62 ERA. Forsch and the Cardinals matched up against Pittsburgh right-hander Mike Bielecki, a former first-round draft pick out of Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida. In two previous games against the Cardinals that season, Bielecki held the Cardinals to just two earned runs over 14 innings, though he received no decision in either start.

The Cardinals used their speed to get on the scoreboard in the first inning. Bielecki walked Vince Coleman to lead off the inning. Coleman – who stole four bases on the day – swiped second, then advanced to third when Curt Flood grounded out to second base. Tom Herr’s sacrifice fly to center field scored Coleman and gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.

Forsch held the lead through five innings, allowing just a third-inning walk to Bielecki.

“That’s as good as I’ve seen him,” Cardinals catcher Mike LaValliere said. “He had great location on his fastball and he was getting his sinker down and away to the lefthanders. He was outstanding.”[1]

In the bottom of the fifth, Bielecki walked Clint Hurdle and allowed singles to LaValliere and Jose Oquendo. With the bases loaded, Forsch hit the ball into the left-field bleachers, becoming the seventh pitcher in Cardinals history to hit a grand slam.

“Bielecki lost the whole concept of what pitching is about in that inning,” Pirates manager Jim Leyland said. “He had been throwing strike, strike, strike. Then he walks Hurdle … You’d think he was pitching to Babe Ruth.”[2]

With the grand slam, Forsch joined Mike O’Neill (1902), Curt Davis (1938), Bob Gibson (1965 and 1973), Rick Wise (1973), and Joaquin Andujar (1984). It was the ninth home run of Forsch’s career, tops among active National League pitchers and trailing only Boston’s Tom Seaver among major-league hurlers. Seaver had 12 career home runs.[3]

After Forsch returned to the dugout, the crowd of 36,286 continued to cheer until their hero climbed back up the dugout steps for a curtain call.

“I understand what the fans wanted me to do, but I didn’t want it to look like I was showing up the pitcher,” Forsch said. “I’ve seen hitters do that kind of thing, but I’m a pitcher first and I’ve thrown some long balls.”[4]

The Pirates ended Forsch’s no-hit bid in the top of the sixth as Joe Orsulak entered the game as a pinch hitter for Bielecki and doubled to left field. The next batter, U L Washington, singled up the middle to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 5-1.

Forsch retired the side in order in the seventh, but ran into trouble in the eighth as Junior Ortiz and Johnny Ray each singled. Benny Destefano scored Ortiz on a sacrifice fly, and after Forsch walked Washington, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog turned to left-hander Ricky Horton to face rookie outfielder Bobby Bonilla. Bonilla doubled to left field, scoring Ray and Washington. Suddenly, the Cardinals led just 5-4. Forsch was credited with all four runs.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “All of a sudden I just started missing on my pitches, and the Pirates are tough. They keep coming at you.”[5]

With no room for error, Herzog inserted rookie closer Todd Worrell. After a passed ball allowed Bonilla to advance to third, Worrell retired the next two batters to end the inning.

Worrell worked around a one-out double by Jim Morrison to throw a scoreless ninth inning and record his 24th save of the season, a new rookie record.

“I had to work for it but I’m getting these saves because of the defense this team plays,” said Worrell, who had a bottle of champagne sitting next to his locker when reporters arrived. “Tommy Herr made a great play up the middle today and that really saved the game.”[6]

The win was Forsch’s 12th of the season and marked the first time in his career he had won six consecutive starts. He finished the year with 14 wins and a 3.25 ERA. The following year, Forsch earned the Silver Slugger Award as the National League’s top-hitting pitcher. He retired after the 1989 season with 168 wins over his 16-year career.

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[1] John Sonderegger, “Forsch-ful,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 1986.

[2] Charley Feeney, “St. Louis pitchers batter Pirates, 5-4,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 11, 1986.

[3] John Sonderegger, “Forsch-ful,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 1986.

[4] Charley Feeney, “St. Louis pitchers batter Pirates, 5-4,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 11, 1986.

[5] John Sonderegger, “Forsch-ful,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 1986.

[6] John Sonderegger, “Forsch-ful,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 1986.

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