Forsch No-hits Braves

April 7, 1979

The form that made the no-hitter possible
(c) Houston Astros
Photos   Box Score   Play-by-Play

(c) Houston Astros

Astro Forsch fires no-hitter at Braves
by Harry Shattock, Houston Chronicle
Ken Forsch, in his first start of the season, threw the sixth no-hitter in franchise history and shut down the Braves, 6-0. Forsch faced only two batters over the minimum, retiring twenty consecutive batters between his second-inning walk to left-fielder Jeff Burroughs and an 8th-inning walk to center fielder Barry Bonnell. Catcher Alan Ashby was the big hitter for the game, driving in three runs. His big hit was a two-run triple in the 7th inning that put the game out of reach and sent opposing pitcher Larry McWilliams to the showers. The infield defense was critical for Forsch, recording 16 of the necessary 27 outs. With the no-hitter, Forsch was named the National League's Player of the Week and joined his brother Bob as the only brother tandem to throw no-hitters. The April 7 date was the earliest no-hitter until Hideo Nomo's no-hitter on April 6, 2001.

One beneficial effect of the no-hitter was that it put Ken Forsch's name in the national media. Until then, Forsch had been an unknown and underrated pitcher playing in the shadow of his brother. Forsch begin his career a starting pitcher and was moved to the bullpen when the Astros acquired Claude Osteen for Jim Wynn. Forsch thrived in the new role and soon became one of the league's top closers. But you can't keep a good pitcher out of the rotation, and Forsch started the 1979 season as a full-time starter for the first time in six years. And with his first start of the season, he wrote himself permanently into the record books with his impressive no-hitter.

Shortstop Craig Reynolds said his cap "was four feet above my head."

Catcher Alan Ashby said, "It was impossible not to be uptight."

Pitcher James Rodney Richard, sitting in the dugout, said, "It seemed almost like a fantasy."

And as they played or watched, each sweating nervously as the tension mounted moment by moment, veteran Houston Astro Ken Forsch calmly pitched the sixth no-hitter in this city's 18-year major league history -- 6-0 over the Atlanta Braves Saturday night in the Astrodome.

Forsch, who for 10 years has savored the good times but mostly endured the disappointments within the Astros, realized the dream of every pitcher's lifetime and did so convincingly, allowing only two Atlantans to reach base (on walks) as 24,325 paying customers cheered every pitch near the end of only the National League season's second game.

"Once I knew I had a chance, I was determined not to give in to them," Forsch said. He never did.

"I have never seen so few balls hit hard against a pitcher in a game," new shortstop Reynolds said.

Indeed, Forsch was so totally in command there wasnary a scare as he doggedly put down the Braves.

"I only thought one time they might get a hit, in the eight inning (with one out) when somebody (Dale Murphy) hit a line shot to the left side," Forsch said. "I was afraid it was in the hole."

It wasn't. Shorstop Reynolds fielded the ball on one vicious hop, threw to first base and Murphy was out.

"But I worried then that maybe I was losing my slider," Forsch said.

He wasn't. He finished that inning routinely, then secured three straight ground balls in the ninth, first from pinch-hitter Rowland Office, then from Jerry Royster and Glenn Hubbard.

Royster provided the most excitement. First he took a ball, then a strike, then another ball, then drilled a wicked liner eight feet foul down the third-base line.

"If it was fair, I would've fielded it," third baseman Art Howe said of Royster's bid to spoil Forsch's masterpiece. "Nothing was going by me. I wanted the ball to be hit to me."

Instead, they went to Reynolds. Royster grounded meekly to the shortstop, then one pitch later -- one climactic pitch -- Hubbard hit a bouncer ever so slowly to shortstop.

"I thought that last grounder would never reach me," Reynolds described the feeling. "When it was barely halfway there, I was telling myself, 'Now, don't miss it.'"

He didn't. And when Reynolds' throw reached first baseman Enos Cabell ahead of Hubbard, the Astros' bench raced to the mound to salute one of Houston's most popular, most dedicated athletes throughout this decade.

"I haven't been this pumped up since I joined Houston (three years ago)," said Howe. "And it's because of Kenny. He's a great guy, he's worked so hard to get where he is and for him to come so close and not to make it would have been horrible. Funny thing, we were goofing around before the game and I told him I was tired of hearing about all his aches and pains. I said, 'Buddy, go out there and pitch a shutout.' Do you think maybe he thought he had to do this to stay my friend?"

Aches and pains. Forsch has experienced his share this year. First he pulled a hamstring muscle in spring training. Thenleg soreness bothered him one day. Next came bursitis of his left (non-throwing) arm, or an insect bite, depending upon whose report you believe, an ailment which struck him only two days and which until Friday night threatened to dealy his initial 1979 appearance.

"My worst day was Thursday," Forsch said. "I was really sick."

"I wasn't at all sure Thursday that he'd be able to pitch tonight," Manager Bill Virdon admitted. "But he said Friday night he was fine and that's all I wanted to hear."

"I wish that same insect would bite me," fellow pitcher Joe Niekro said.

Even Saturday night, however, Forsch flirted with physical difficulty. Pitching in only the second inning, his elbow bumped his knee, causing minor swelling and prompting a conference at the mound between Forsch, Virdon and trainer Don Kiger.

"I told them over and over, 'I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine." Forsch recalled.

And he was right.

"We changed moods almost simultaneously about the fourth or fifth inning," catcher Alan Ashby said. "It was almost as if we thought the same thing together: Don't give in to anybody. If therewere going to get a hit, get it on the pitch Kenny wanted to throw."

"It wasn't a performance of strength toward the end," Ashby said. "Yes, he maintained his strength but he did it with knowledge of the game. He used all his pitches. He got a couple of outs in the ninth on curveballs. He really pitched a smart game."

Like Forsch, this was catcher Ashby's first no-hitter and the first time the ex-Toronto Blue Jay has even caught Forsch in a regular season game. "I let him throw whatever he wanted." Ashby said, "but we were together about 90 percent of the time."

"My slider probably was my best pitch," Forsch said. "I went to it a lot. But I also had a sneaky fastball. I was surprised by it tonight."

"I was afraid of Gary Mathews and Jeff Burroughs, especially." Forsch said of the Braves' top hitters. "I pitched them carefully."

The only Atlanta runners were on walks, a leadoff pass to Burroughs in the second inning and a two-out walk to Barry Bonnell in the eighth. Otherwise, Forsch was perfect.

"In my younger days, I probably couldn't have pitched a no-hitter," Forsch, 32, said. "I mostly threw hard stuff and when you get into the seventh inning, it's hard to keep relying on fastballs every time. As Alan said, we were able to switch the pattern late in the game tonight. That was a big difference."

Forsch, a soft-spoken individual at most times, enjoyed a stony silence this night.

"I wasn't about to say a word to him," Enos Cabell said. "I just slapped him on the butt and said, 'Let's go.'"

"When a guy's pitching like Kenny did, you don't say a word," Richard said.

"I talked to him once," pitcher Joe Sambito said, smiling, "It was in the seventh inning, right before he struck out for the third straight time. I kidded him about his hitting. Gee, he had a no-hitter at the plate tonight, too, didn't he?"

Yes, the Astro hits came from other sources. From Cesar Cedeno and Cabell with RBIs off Braves starter Larry McWilliams in the first inning; from Ashby on a two-run triple in the seventh and an RBI single in the eighth and from Terry Puhl on a seventh-inning run-producing single.

The Astros excelled offensively and defensively in improving their record to 2-0. But this night nothing much mattered except that a nice guy made good. Even the normally reserved Astrodome pres box was filled only with reporters standing and applauding and even crying a bit in appreciation of a man they admire.

"It was the most thrilling moment of my life," Forsch said after he joined Don Nottebart, Ken Johnson, Don Wilson (twice) and Larry Dierker among Houston major leaguers pitching no-hitters.

"But in the ninth inning, I was thinking even if I didn't pitch a no-hitter, it would be all right," Forsch said.

That's because he has progressed through the years from part-time starter to National League All-Star reliever now to full-time starter and he was proving, as many of us already knew, they he has become a very, very good pitcher.

"That is the key; he is no longer just a thrower, he is a pitcher now," summed Bob Watson, Forsch's close friend and the only Astro to play longer here. "He used to try to throw baseballs past people. Not anymore. He changes speeds. He uses all his pitches. He is intelligent. And tonight he reached his peak."

And today Ken Forsch is the toast of baseball.

Forsch's wife said she 'did a lot of praying'
Baseball superstition holds that when a man is pitching a no-hitter, you don't speak with him during the latter part of a game and Ken Forsch's Houston Astro teammates observed that ritual Saturday night.

But Jonnye Forsch, Ken's wife, was not so lucky.

"I didn't realize what was happening until the fifth or sixth inning when somebody close to me in the stands tapped my shoulder and asked, 'Do you realize your husband is pitching a no-hitter?'", Mrs. Forsch said.

"I did a lot of praying. Our Sunday School class was here tonight so you could say we were rooting 'in force' for Ken."

"It seemed like those last few innings lasted forever while we were at bat. We kept scoring runs. I kept wondering, "Will these innings ever end?"

They did. And Ken's wife said, "It's a great, great thrill. I never bowed my head. I just kept watching."

Quite proudly, too.

Forsch turned Braves' bats to straw
by Ed Fowler, Houston Chronicle

Jerry Royster has lost his job. The Atlanta Braves' regular shortstop last season, Royster has been parked on the bench because Manager Bobby Cox found something lacking in his .230 Spring Training batting average and his defensive play. Pepe Frias, a 30-year-old infielder acquired in an off-season trade, has Royster's job.

Royster was in the lineup Saturday night at the Astrodome, however, because Bob Horner, the young phenom who has designs on becoming an overnight millionaire, suffered a sprained ankle in the season opener Friday night. Royster took over at third base.

"Bob is my roommate," Royster said after the game, "so I had an idea before we came to the park how much he was hurting and that I'd probably play in his place. He came out and took batting practice, but I figured I'd be in. I was ready."

None of the Braves denied that they had been ready, but preparedness in this case was not enough. The Astros' Ken Forsch turned their bats to straw and their feet to clay as he pitched the first no-hitter of the 1979 season before Peach Tree Street had a good chance to come into bloom, defeating the Braves 6-0.

When pinch-hitter Rowland Office stepped up in the pitcher's slot to lead off the ninth inning, only two Braves had reached base, both on walks. Coming off a one-run output the night before, it was an especially anemic performance for a pitching-poor club that hopes to survive on offense with sluggers like Horner, Jeff Burroughs and Dale Murphy knocking down fences.

The Braves said afterward that it doesn't matter much that they got no-hit, that they'll bounce back, but against the muted backdrop of their clubhouse their eager chirping came off something like Bette Midler belting out a number with no band backing her up.

"I hit a change-up," said Office, who bounced to second baseman Rafael Landestoy for the first out of the final inning. "He threw me a fastball, then a change-up. I wasn't thinking about breaking up nothin'. I was trying to get a hit. I wasn't trying to make an out."

"Last year I hit him pretty good. I don't know if he was any different this time. Talk to the guys who were in the game. I was on the bench."

"I don't remember if I was in a no-hitter before. I knew I was gonna get a chance to hit, if not in the eighth, then in the ninth. But I was just lookin' forward to getting a chance to hit, that's all. I wasn't trying to break up nothin.'"

Office's out brought up Royster, who had flied to center, bounced to the mound and grounded to short in his first three trips. He lined a shot foul outside third base, then grounded again to shortstop Craig Reynolds on a 2-1 pitch for the second out.

"Coming up in the ninth inning against a guy who has a no-hitter going makes me a lot better hitter, a more determined hitter," said Royster. "I was determined to hit the ball hard... and that's something we didn't do all night."

"He threw extremely well. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and he did it. He had command of each and every one of his pitches. He didn't strike many out, but he didn't let anybody hit the ball hard. He threw more off-speed pitches tonight than he did against us last year."

"Being no-hit isn't going to get us down. It's too early for that. If we lose three here we can go home and win three and be at .500. It's not that big a thing."

Royster, at least, speaks from experience. He was with the Braves late in the 1976 season when John Montefusco of San Francisco beat Atlanta 9-0 on a no-hitter. Office said he can't remember if he has ever been involved in a no-hitter.

When Reynolds threw out Royster, Glenn Hubbard, the second baseman, came up with the Braves' last chance of saving face, if not their scalps. He w-ed Forsch's first pitch to Reynolds, who very professionally turned the last shovelful of dirt onto the grave with his throw across to first and then jumped into the air like a kid who had just won at pin the tail on the donkey.

"I figured whenhe walked Barry (Bonnell) in the eighth, I'd be the last guy up," said Hubbard. "Did I want a hit worse in that situation? Yeah, for sure. Nobody wants his team to be no-hit. He threw a lot of off-speed stuff, a lot of sliders. I don't think he threw me but one or two fastballs all night. He makes you hit a lot of ground balls."

Manager Cox watched helplessly from the dugout as the no-hitter unfolded. Afterward, he was able to say little more than he had been able to do during the game.

"There's not much you can say," he said. "He pitched a great game. We only hit one ball hard off him all night (Murphy's grounder to short in the eighth). He pitched the same game against us last year. His control is good, he has a good, live fastball, he spots his slider, has a good forkball."

"Nobody likes it, but there's nothing you can do about it. Tomorrow's a new day."

Hubbard, for one, was willing to admit that not quite all is right with the world. He was thinking of the fans - in Houston and Atlanta.

"Yeah, it gets you down," he said, "especially this early in the season. The crowd will come out and yell at us, and, we'll go home and the crowd won't come out like they would if we'd got 15 hits. You've just got to go out tomorrow and get the 15 hits."

From an August, 1979 game program:

At 6:50 p.m. on Saturday, April 7, 1979, Astros' righthander Ken Forsch paced the empty clubhouse. He had taken batting practice 30 minutes before and now his teammates were out on the floor of the Astrodome taking infield practice.

"What am I supposed to do for the next half hour," Forsch asked. Normally, in his past seasons as a relief pitcher, Forsch would be outside with the rest of the team, hitting fungoes to the outfielders and backing up infield drills.

But on this night he was a starting pitcher and it was to be his first start of the season. He would not begin warmups for 30 more minutes and he did not seem comfortable with the new routine.

But at 7:35 p.m. on April 7, Forsch took the mound against the visiting Atlanta Braves and his routine was perfect: no-hit perfect.

Walking just two and striking out three, Forsch became the fifth pitcher in Houston baseball history (Don Wilson had two no-hitters) to pitch a no-hitter. He also became half of the first brother combination to throw major league no-hitters. His brother, Bob, no-hit the Phillies in 1978.

Forsch's win was the earliest no-hitter in a season since Bob Feller pitched one on Opening Day, April 16, 1940, vs. the Chicago White Sox.

Ken's 6-0 gem over the Braves brought instant national attention to the nine-year veteran. For the next several days, Forsch spent almost all of his off-field time doing interviews or answering telephone calls from throughout the country. He was named National League Player of the Week, Sports Illustrated Player of the Week, the "This Week in Baseball" television program's Gillette Special winner and was also recognized by the city of Houston and the State House of Representatives.

On Wednesday night, April 11, the Astros organization took the opportunity to say thanks when they presented Kenny's wife, Jonnye, and their daughter, Stephanie, with a plaque, a color portrait of Ken and a 1979 Ford Mercury Capri. On that same night, Forsch defeated the Dodgers, 10-3.

Now well into the season, Forsch continues to be one of the Astros' strong starters, and no matter what the rest of the season brings, there is no doubt that one of the year's main highlights took place on Saturday, April 7, 1979, when Ken Forsch paced the clubhouse floor and then no-hit the Atlanta Braves.


Forsch accepts the congratulations of his teammates
(c) Houston Astros

Manager Bill Virdon does the honors for Kenny as Tal Smith looks on
(c) Houston Astros

A champagne shower courtesy of Alan Ashby. Forsch's no-hitter was
also the first for Ashby, although he'd seen a pair of Sandy Koufax
no-hitters in Dodger Stadium
(c) Houston Astros

The press gets Kenny's own thoughts of his no-hit performance
(c) Houston Astros

Astros President and General Manager Tal Smith and Director
of Community Relations Larry Dierker presented Jonnye Forsch
and daughter Stephanie with an engraved plaque, a color portrait
and a new car at pre-game ceremonies on April 11.
(c)Houston Astros

Box score

     Game of 4/7/1979 -- Atlanta at Houston (N)
     Courtesy of Retrosheet

  Atlanta            AB  R  H RBI    Houston            AB  R  H RBI  
Royster J, 3b         4  0  0  0   Puhl T, rf            4  1  3  1   
Hubbard G, 2b         4  0  0  0   Reynolds C, ss        3  0  0  0   
Matthews G, rf        3  0  0  0   Cedeno C, cf          4  1  2  1   
Burroughs J, lf       2  0  0  0   Watson B, 1b          4  0  0  0   
Lum M, 1b             3  0  0  0   Landestoy R, 2b       0  0  0  0   
Murphy D, c           3  0  0  0   Cabell E, 3b-1b       4  1  1  1   
Bonnell B, cf         2  0  0  0   Howe A, 2b-3b         4  1  1  0   
Frias P, ss           2  0  0  0   Cruz J, lf            4  1  2  0   
Beall B, ph           1  0  0  0   Ashby A, c            4  1  2  3   
Chaney D, ss          0  0  0  0   Forsch K, p           4  0  0  0   
McWilliams L, p       2  0  0  0   
Skok C, p             0  0  0  0   
Devine A, p           0  0  0  0   
Office R, ph          1  0  0  0   
                     -- -- -- --                        -- -- -- --
                     27  0  0  0                        35  6 11  6   

Atlanta          000 000 000 --  0
Houston          200 000 31x --  6

  Atlanta              IP  H  R ER BB SO
McWilliams L (L)*     6.0  8  5  5  0  3
Skok C                1.0  2  0  0  0  1
Devine A              1.0  1  1  0  0  0

  Houston              IP  H  R ER BB SO
Forsch K (W)          9.0  0  0  0  2  3
  * Pitched to 3 batters in 7th

Game winning RBI -- none
E -- Royster J 2
LOB -- Atlanta 2, Houston 6
2B -- Cedeno C
3B -- Cruz J, Ashby A
SB -- Cabell E
CS -- Puhl T
SH -- Reynolds C
T -- 2:05
A -- 24325

Play by Play

Game of Saturday, 4/7/1979 -- Atlanta Braves at Houston Astros (night)
Courtesy of Retrosheet

Starting Lineups:

   Atlanta                       Houston                       
1. 3B Jerry Royster              RF Terry Puhl             
2. 2B Glenn Hubbard              SS Craig Reynolds        
3. RF Gary Matthews              CF Cesar Cedeno            
4. LF Jeff Burroughs             1B Bob Watson            
5. 1B Mike Lum                   3B Enos Cabell           
6.  C Dale Murphy                2B Art Howe             
7. CF Barry Bonnell              LF Jose Cruz             
8. SS Pepe Frias                  C Alan Ashby           
9.  P Larry McWilliams            P Ken Forsch           

J.Royster flied to C.Cedeno-cf
G.Hubbard flied to C.Cedeno-cf
G.Matthews grounded out (C.Reynolds-ss to B.Watson-1b)
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 0.

T.Puhl singled to left field
C.Reynolds out on a sacrifice bunt (D.Murphy-c to M.Lum-1b) [T.Puhl to second]
C.Cedeno doubled to left field [T.Puhl scored]
B.Watson struck out
E.Cabell singled to center field [C.Cedeno scored]
A.Howe reached on an error by J.Royster-3b [E.Cabell to second, A.Howe to first]
J.Cruz grounded out (M.Lum-1b unassisted)
2 R, 3 H, 1 E, 2 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 2.

J.Burroughs walked
M.Lum popped to E.Cabell-3b in foul territory
D.Murphy forced J.Burroughs (K.Forsch-p to C.Reynolds-ss) [D.Murphy to first]
B.Bonnell was called out on strikes
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 2.

A.Ashby grounded out (M.Lum-1b unassisted)
K.Forsch struck out
T.Puhl singled to center field
T.Puhl was caught stealing second (L.McWilliams-p to M.Lum-1b to P.Frias-ss)
0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 2.

P.Frias flied to J.Cruz-lf
L.McWilliams grounded out (K.Forsch-p to B.Watson-1b)
J.Royster grounded out (K.Forsch-p to B.Watson-1b)
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 2.

C.Reynolds grounded out (L.McWilliams-p to M.Lum-1b)
C.Cedeno flied to G.Matthews-rf
B.Watson grounded out (P.Frias-ss to M.Lum-1b)
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 2.

G.Hubbard grounded out (E.Cabell-3b to B.Watson-1b)
G.Matthews struck out
J.Burroughs flied to C.Cedeno-cf
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 2.

E.Cabell grounded out (P.Frias-ss to M.Lum-1b)
A.Howe popped to J.Royster-3b in foul territory
J.Cruz tripled to right field
A.Ashby grounded out (M.Lum-1b to L.McWilliams-p)
0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 2.

M.Lum flied to C.Cedeno-cf
D.Murphy grounded out (B.Watson-1b unassisted)
B.Bonnell flied to C.Cedeno-cf
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 2.

K.Forsch struck out
T.Puhl flied to G.Matthews-rf
C.Reynolds grounded out (L.McWilliams-p to M.Lum-1b)
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 2.

P.Frias grounded out (K.Forsch-p to B.Watson-1b)
L.McWilliams grounded out (A.Ashby-c to B.Watson-1b)
J.Royster grounded out (C.Reynolds-ss to B.Watson-1b)
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 2.

C.Cedeno popped to P.Frias-ss
B.Watson popped to J.Royster-3b
E.Cabell grounded out (P.Frias-ss to M.Lum-1b)
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 2.

G.Hubbard flied to C.Cedeno-cf
G.Matthews grounded out (C.Reynolds-ss to B.Watson-1b)
J.Burroughs struck out
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 2.

A.Howe singled to left field
J.Cruz singled to right field [A.Howe to third]
A.Ashby tripled to left field [A.Howe scored, J.Cruz scored]
K.Forsch was called out on strikes
T.Puhl singled to center field [A.Ashby scored]
C.Reynolds popped to G.Hubbard-2b
C.Cedeno singled to right field [T.Puhl to third];
B.Watson lined to J.Royster-3b
3 R, 5 H, 0 E, 2 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 5.

M.Lum grounded out (R.Landestoy-2b to E.Cabell-1b)
D.Murphy grounded out (C.Reynolds-ss to E.Cabell-1b)
B.Bonnell walked
B.Beall popped to R.Landestoy-2b
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 5.

E.Cabell reached on an error by J.Royster-3b [E.Cabell to first]
E.Cabell stole second
A.Howe lined to M.Lum-1b
J.Cruz grounded out (G.Hubbard-2b to M.Lum-1b) [E.Cabell to third]
A.Ashby singled to center field [E.Cabell scored (unearned)]
K.Forsch forced A.Ashby (D.Chaney-ss to G.Hubbard-2b) [K.Forsch to first]
1 R (0 ER), 1 H, 1 E, 1 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 6.

R.Office grounded out (R.Landestoy-2b to E.Cabell-1b)
J.Royster grounded out (C.Reynolds-ss to E.Cabell-1b)
G.Hubbard grounded out (C.Reynolds-ss to E.Cabell-1b)
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Braves 0, Astros 6.

Final Totals      R   H   E  LOB
 Braves           0   0   2   2
 Astros           6  11   0   6