What I’m Reading: “Tales From the St. Louis Cardinals Dugout” by Bob Forsch with Tom Wheatley

With “Tales From the St. Louis Cardinals Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Cardinals Stories Ever Told,” former Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch tells a wide range of stories from his 15-year career with the Cardinals, spanning from 1974 through 1988.

Forsch’s long career in St. Louis allows him to tell stories featuring Cardinals from across the generations, including Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ted Simmons, Bruce Sutter, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Whitey Herzog, Red Schoendienst, Vince Coleman, Keith Hernandez, Jack Clark, George Kissell, and Joaquin Andujar.

All of Forsch’s stories are brief, with most lasting no more than a page, so the storytelling moves quickly. The stories are offered in loose chronological order, but he also bounces around a bit to tell clusters of stories centered around the same theme or people.

It makes for a fun book, even if Forsch doesn’t share too much of his own story. He briefly mentions his early days as a third base prospect before moving to the pitcher’s mound, but seems more comfortable discussing his former teammates.

Some of my favorite stories:

  • When Sutter and Forsch went fishing together, they often ran into Herzog. Forsch soon discovered that if they came back and Forsch began cleaning the fish, Herzog wouldn’t say anything, but if Sutter – the Cardinals’ star closer – began cleaning the fish, Herzog would offer to do it instead. Forsch figured Herzog didn’t want his star closer cutting himself while cleaning the fish.
  • When Forsch received a new contract one year, it included clauses that prevented him from riding motorcycles, skiing, skydiving, etc., but also included a clause that forbid hunting. Forsch took it to Herzog to complain and Herzog scratched it out of the contract for him.
  • Before Forsch’s 1975 season, he received a contract from the Cardinals for $18,000 – the major-league minimum. On his brother Kenny’s advice, Forsch sent it back unsigned, then spent a nervous few weeks waiting for a reply. Finally, the Cardinals sent him a new contract for $21,000.
  • When Clark came to the Cardinals from the Giants, one of the papers quoted him saying that he knew what it was like in a pennant race. Forsch and some of the Cardinals gave him a hard time for that, pointing out that the Giants didn’t finish any better than second or third during his tenure. When Clark and the Cardinals reached the World Series in 1985, they told Clark that he finally knew what it was like to be in a pennant race.
  • Forsch gave Hernandez a lot of credit for being an insightful player who could offer tips about attacking opposing hitters, and said he was one of the few infielders who actually had something helpful to say when they went to the mound.

The hardcover copy of “Tales from the St. Louis Cardinals Dugout” comes in at 182 pages, and with plenty of photos peppered within, it’s a very fast read. For fans of the Cardinals of the ‘70s and ‘80s, it makes for a great, easy read. The title makes it sound like it’s more thorough than it really is, but it’s a fun book to read over a weekend.

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