This past weekend I watched my first spring training games, courtesy of the MLB Network. Naturally the first game I saw included the St Louis Cardinals – they played their complex-mates, the Miami Marlins, on Saturday. Kyle Lohse started, there was a rain delay, and the Cardinals eventually lost 3-1.
After Lohse worked his innings Lance Lynn came on to throw. Lynn has changed his number from 62 last season, now 31. Normally that fact would just be trivia, but the number 31 struck a chord this time. It once belonged to Bob Forsch. Now, it is not the first time someone has worn #31 since Forsch was traded to Houston. Six other men (5 pitchers and Bo Hart) have worn the number. But Bob Forsch died last fall, six days after throwing out the first pitch of Game 7, so this time it was different.
Cardinal teams after 1974 and before Whitey Herzog took over in 1980 generally were not very good. From the start of 1975 through the end of the 1980 season the club was 40 games under .500 (466-506). They had a few interesting pieces – a sublime catcher, a ‘mad’ relief pitcher, a future MVP – but the starting staff had a lot of turnover and not much lasting talent. Except for Forsch.
Did you know Forsch was the winningest pitcher at Busch Memorial Stadium (1966-2006)? He won 93 games there (Bob Gibson is second, with 72). Forsch also appeared in the most games as a pitcher (231), threw the most innings (1395), had the most losses (59), and struck out 576 hitters, second only to Gibson’s 933, at Busch. You definitely know he is the only Cardinal pitcher to throw more than one no-hitter, that he won 20 games in 1977, and famously hit Jeffrey Leonard ten years later to, perhaps, change the psychological nature of that rather contentious NLCS. Cardinals went to the World Series.
Near as I can tell, there is no plan in the works to honor Forsch, and there should be. He will never make it into the Hall of Fame; his only year on the ballot (1995) he received 2 votes. He likely will not have his number retired by the Cardinals, either. But he deserves to be remembered, and not just with Bob Forsch Day. Sewing a 31 patch on everyone’s uniform would be a little awkward, seeing as Lynn currently wears the number. RHF on a sleeve, or even an old-school black armband, would not be too out of place or ostentatious.
Honor the third winningest pitcher in St Louis Cardinal history. Honor the man who pitched in 3 World Series. Honor Bob Forsch.