Tribe All-Star Moments: Ray Fosse, 1970

This is the first of an 11-part series counting down the ten greatest All-Star performances by a Cleveland Indian. To prepare for this, I've gone through each All-Star Game box score, picked out 20-30 nominees, and eventually whittled that list down to the 10 best performances. I'm fortunate to have so much great history to cull from for this series, but unfortunately some very nice All-Star game performances were left off the list.

So why is this an 11-part series? Because I felt that this series on Cleveland Indians in the All-Star needed to include perhaps the most infamous event in All-Star Game history. So rather than bump off a memorable performance, I would add an eleventh entry.

The Indians finished 6th in the American League in 1964, at 79-83. They weren't a bad club, and had a bunch of young pitching talent breaking into the majors, but had been stuck around .500 since the beginning of the decade. The truly dreadful baseball didn't really start until the end of the 1960s, so they picked seventh in the inaugural MLB draft in 1965 (there were just 20 teams in baseball at the time). They chose with their first round pick a high school catcher out Illinois named Ray Fosse. A high-school catcher is one of the riskiest of draft picks, but Fosse panned out, and was playing regularly by age 22 in 1969. After that season the Indians traded Joe Azcue to Boston, clearing roster room for Fosse to start and for Duke Sims to be a super-utility guy.

Fosse blossomed in 1970, especially in the power department. He was already an excellent defender (he would win Gold Gloves in '70 and '71), but he added an offensive game to the mix. In the first half of 1970, he hit .312/.366/.527 with 16 home runs. He was an easy choice to represent the Indians in Cincinnati at the All-Star Game. He was joined by Sam McDowell, who was making his fifth appearance in six seasons.

Fosse was not the starting catcher, but would play six innings in relief of starter Bill Freehan because the game would go 12 innings. At the plate, Fosse went  1-for-2 with a walk; he also drove in a run in the top of the seventh to put the AL ahead 2-0. But the NL would come back in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game 4-4, setting the stage for perhaps the most famous (and infamous) play in All-Star Game history.

In the bottom of the 12th, hometown All-Star Pete Rose singled with one out, and went to second Billy Grabarkewitz's single. When Jim Hickman singled to center field, Rose rounded third and headed for home. Rose almost always slid headfirst into a base, so that took the safer feet-first slide into home out of play. So he chose to run over Fosse, who didn't yet have the baseball but was a bit up the line, preparing for a sweep tag.

Here's the video.

The collision permanently injured Fosse's left shoulder. A post-game X-Ray didn't show anything because his shoulder was so swollen, so he continued to play, not knowing that he had a broken bone in the shoulder. He no longer hit for much power because he had to re-tool his swing. Even today, the shoulder still hurts:

He tries to lift his left arm during an interview and the pain stops him.

"I still feel it," Fosse says. "From time to time, I wake up and it's killing me."

I'd probably break a bunch of Ground Rules if I talk too much about Rose and the aftermath of the incident, so I'll keep it brief. Rose didn't talk to Fosse until briefly next spring, and after that not until 1980. At the latter meeting, he told Fosse that the collision wasn't intentional. 

But in other places, Rose told a different story:

"Probably the thing that was most upsetting is he was quoted as saying (a few years later) that he did it intentionally," Fosse says. "I would like to think it just happened, it was a clean, aggressive play. The quote was basically, 'If I didn't hit him the way I did, I couldn't talk to my father afterward.'

"When I initially saw the replay, I thought he was going to slide. Then I read where he said he did it on purpose. I don't know."

Regardless of whether the collision was intentional or not, Fosse was never the same again. He would play nine more seasons, and actually make another All-Star appearance, but wasn't the same hitter he was prior to the 1970 All-Star Game. The Indians traded him to Oakland in 1973. He returned for the 1976 season, and he had one of his better years, hitting .301/.347/.362 in 300 plate appearances. He would retire in 1980 after seriously injuring his knee. Since 1986, he's served as color commentator for Oakland Athletics radio and television broadcasts.

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