Fosse and Rose Collision Started Long List of Injuries for Catcher
By Vince Guerrieri
It’s a tradition for anyone who watches the All-Star Game: Getting to see the clip of Pete Rose wheeling around third and barreling toward home in the bottom of the 12th inning of the 1970 All-Star Game. And then we all get to see him almost leap into mid-air and bowl over Ray Fosse, scoring the winning run of the game before his hometown crowd at Riverfront Stadium, which had opened earlier that year.
The conventional wisdom is that the collision irreparably damaged Fosse, and started the downslide of his career. But while Fosse did suffer a separated shoulder from the incident, it was one in a long line of injuries Fosse had during a snake-bit career.
Ray Fosse is the answer to the trivia question of, “Who was the Indians’ first ever draft pick,” taken seventh overall in the first amateur draft in 1965. He made his major league debut in 1967, getting a cup of coffee in September, and two years later, he was the backup catcher behind Duke Sims. On June 10, 1969, Fosse took a foul tip off his hand, fracturing his finger, and missed most of the rest of the year after that.
The next year, Fosse started out strong, putting together a 23-game hitting streak and hitting .313. Orioles manager Earl Weaver named him as a reserve on the American League All-Star team.
The American League took a 4–1 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but the National League tied the game. Pete Rose struck out with two out to end the rally. In the bottom of the 12th, Rose came up to bat again. He singled off Clyde Wright (father of future Indians pitcher Jaret Wright) and advanced to second on a single by Bill Grabarkewitz. Jim Hickman hit a pitch into center field, and Rose headed home, with Fosse protecting the plate.
Royals outfielder Amos Otis charged the ball and threw it in to the plate. Fosse wasn’t going to get out of the way for the play, and Rose was running like he wasn’t going to give way either. Rose hurled into Fosse, who never caught the ball. Rose scored, and the National League won.
“Well, that’s football,” Fosse said later.
After the break, Fosse continued to play for the Indians while Rose went on the disabled list with a bruised knee from the collision. Fosse won the first of two straight Gold Glove awards, and was named to the American League All-Star team in 1971 – again by Weaver.
Fosse’s average dipped to .241 in 1972, but he was still a leader behind the plate. Gaylord Perry won the American League Cy Young Award that year, and credited it to Fosse.
The following spring, Fosse was traded from Cleveland to Oakland (for, among others, Dave Duncan, another catcher and the father of current Tribe player Shelley Duncan). Fosse played in a career-high 143 games and helped the A’s to their second straight World Series win.
Fosse was injured in the clubhouse in 1974, when he tried to break up a fight between Reggie Jackson and Bill North. Fosse ended up needing surgery for a pinched nerve, and missed almost three months. The Athletics went on to win their third straight World Series, but Fosse went 2-for-14 in the World Series.
By 1975, Fosse was the bullpen catcher, as Gene Tenace slipped into the starting role. The next year, Fosse was sold back to the Indians. He was behind the plate for Dennis Eckersley’s no hitter for the Tribe in 1977, but was traded to Seattle in September of that year.
Fosse latched on with the Brewers after that, but was cut from the team in spring training in 1980. He retired with a .241 batting average, 63 home runs and 324 RBI on offense, and a .985 fielding average.
Fosse is currently a radio voice for the Oakland Athletics, and in 2001, was named to the Indians’ all-century team.
Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer