September 26, 1983: Bob Forsch throws his second no-hitter

Bob Forsch wasn’t looking to make history.

When the 33-year-old right-hander took the Busch Stadium mound on September 26, 1983, he was just looking to salvage a miserable season, both for himself and for the defending world champions.

Heading into their second-to-last home stand of the season, the Cardinals were just 75-81, 11 games behind the National League East-leading Phillies. In terms of the standings, the game meant little. The Cardinals already had been eliminated from postseason contention, but the game did provide an opportunity to avenge a three-game sweep the week prior in which the Expos outscored the Cardinals 19-4.

Forsch took the loss in the final game of that series, allowing three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. In the aftermath of the Expos’ 10-1 win, the Cardinals left Montreal with bitter feelings toward the Expos in general and Gary Carter in particular after the Expos catcher ceremoniously spiked the ball following a Cardinals strikeout.

“That is uncalled for,” Cardinals pitcher Dave LaPoint said. “We’re losing now, but don’t embarrass us.”[1]

Outfielder Lonnie Smith was even more direct. “I hate Gary Carter,” he said. “He thinks he’s God’s gift to baseball.”[2]

Just as the Cardinals struggled to follow up on the success of 1982, Forsch battled his control all season. Heading into the game, he had walked 53 batters while striking out just 48. As a result, after winning 15 games during the regular season and pitching a complete-game, three-hit shutout in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves the year prior, Forsch was just 8-12 with two starts remaining in the 1983 season.

One day earlier, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog suggested that Forsch consider going to the Florida Instructional League to incorporate a knuckleball into his repertoire.[3]

“I’ve got a good one at 40 feet,” Forsch said. “The trouble is I’ve got to throw it 60 feet. I don’t think I’m ready for that right now.”[4]

It turned out that Forsch’s fastball, slider, and change-up were plenty against the Expos.

Montreal’s only base runner reached in the second inning. After retiring Al Oliver on a ground ball and benefitting from a nice play by center fielder Willie McGee on a fly ball off the bat of Tim Raines, Forsch brushed Carter back twice. When Forsch finally hit Carter with a pitch to the rear, home plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt issued warnings to both dugouts.

The Expos’ next batter, Chris Speier, hit a ground ball that skipped between the legs of Cardinals second baseman Ken Oberkfell for an error.

“It hit off the end of the bat and it had a funky spin to it,” Oberkfell said. “I put the glove down, but it was definitely an error. It’s not the first error I made, but I’m glad it was an error.”[5]

With runners on first and third, Forsch looked to be in trouble. Instead, he struck out Angel Salazar to end the inning, then retired the next 22 batters in order.

“He had good location,” said Oliver, the 1982 National League batting champion. “He pitched me well.”[6]

Expos leadoff hitter Terry Francona agreed. “He placed the ball exactly where he wanted,” he said.[7]

The Cardinals scored all their runs in the fifth inning. David Green led off with a walk. He advanced to second on a fly ball and scored when Ozzie Smith singled up the middle. After Forsch flied out for the second out of the inning, Lonnie Smith doubled to left field, scoring Ozzie Smith. After Oberkfell walked, McGee singled to right to score Lonnie Smith and make it 3-0.

In the sixth, Cincinnati reliever Dan Schatzeder’s first pitch hit Andy Van Slyke on the wrist and then deflected to his chin. Wendelstedt ejected Schatzeder and Montreal manager Vern Rapp.

Other than McGee’s play on Raines in the third and an earlier catch to retire Andre Dawson and end the first, Forsch didn’t require any heroics from the Cardinals’ defense. In the ninth, Forsch caught pinch hitter Terry Crowley looking. Francona was retired on a fly ball to right field, and the game ended when Manny Trillo grounded out to Oberkfell, who was now playing third base.

 

Forsch needed just 96 pitches, 61 of which were strikes. His historic second no-hitter had come before small St. Louis crowd of 12,457[8] that included his wife, Mollie.

“On the other no-hitter, I didn’t get nervous until the seventh inning,” she said. “This one, I started getting nervous in the fifth. The worst thing was the ninth inning. My knees were shaking and I had to stand up to see.”[9]

The Busch Stadium crowd also included Bill Kinsella, who had been invited to the game by St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Kevin Horrigan to watch what they believed would be a meaningless late-season baseball game while they talked about writing and baseball.[10] Six years later, Kinsella’s 1982 novel, “Shoeless Joe,” was adapted into a baseball movie classic – “Field of Dreams.”

It was the second career no-hitter for Forsch, who also accomplished the feat in 1978 amidst a controversial error call on a hard-hit ball to Cardinals third baseman Ken Reitz. With his 1983 no-hitter, Forsch became just the ninth pitcher in the modern era to win 20 games in a season, pitch for a World Series champion, and throw two no-hitters, joining Sandy Koufax, Allie Reynolds, Bob Feller, Carl Erskine, Ken Holtzman, Christy Mathewson, Warren Spahn, and Cy Young.[11]

 

After the game, Cardinals equipment manager Buddy Bates placed two bottles of champagne he had been saving for a special occasion in front of Forsch’s locker.[12]

“After I finished the sixth inning, I figured I had a fairly decent chance,” Forsch said. “The crowd, after the seventh inning, really started rooting. They made a big difference. I didn’t think I had quite as good stuff then, but every time I threw a pitch, there was a crowd reaction. I was really relaxed. That kind of thing makes you do more than you’re capable of doing. The adrenaline is really pumping.”[13]

Rapp was the Cardinals’ manager in 1978 when Forsch threw his first no-hitter.

“He may have been a .500 pitcher but he didn’t throw that way tonight,” Rapp said. “The last time, he concentrated on a fastball and slider. He didn’t have much of a change-up. This time he had all three and they complemented each other.”[14]

The win positioned Forsch to reach double-digit wins for the eighth time in nine years. In his final start of the season on October 1, Forsch held the Cubs to two runs over eight innings to finish the season with a 10-12 record.


[1] Rick Hummel, “Cards Fall From View,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 20, 1983: C6.

[2] Rick Hummel, “Cards Fall From View,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 20, 1983: C6.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Herzog Would Like Forsch To Work On Knuckleball,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 26, 1983: C8.

[4] Kevin Horrigan, “The Great God Baseball Has Its Way Again,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 27, 1983: C1.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Forsch Hurls His 2nd No-Hitter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 27, 1983: C6.

[6] Ian McDonald, “Forsch fires no-hitter as Cards bury Expos,” Montreal Gazette, September 27, 1983: C1.

[7] Ian McDonald, “Forsch fires no-hitter as Cards bury Expos,” Montreal Gazette, September 27, 1983: C1.

[8] Ian McDonald, “Forsch fires no-hitter as Cards bury Expos,” Montreal Gazette, September 27, 1983: C1.

[9] Rick Hummel, “Forsch Adds Some Taste To An Unpalatable Season,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 27, 1983: C6.

[10] Kevin Horrigan, “The Great God Baseball Has Its Way Again,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 27, 1983: C1.

[11] Rick Hummel, “Forsch Hurls His 2nd No-Hitter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 27, 1983: C1.

[12] Rick Hummel, “Forsch Hurls His 2nd No-Hitter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 27, 1983: C6.

[13] Rick Hummel, “Forsch Hurls His 2nd No-Hitter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 27, 1983: C6.

[14] Rick Hummel, “Forsch Hurls His 2nd No-Hitter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 27, 1983: C6.

 

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