Rose’s hit, claims still hurt Fosse
Forty-two years later, and Ray Fosse still vividly remembers the All-Star moment that robbed him of the opportunity of an impact big-league career.
But as much as the jarring hit he took from Pete Rose at a play at home plate, what eats at Fosse more than four decades later is that Rose has chosen to create the image that it was a hard-nosed play among two guys who were such good friends they had been out until the wee hours of the morning of that game in Cincinnati.
In baseball lore, it has become a play that is often cited to underscore the hard-nosed way Rose played the game, a game-ending collision at home plate that allowed the National League to pull out a 5-4, 12-inning victory at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, Rose’s home park.
Fosse, however, doesn’t remember it that way.
He doesn’t come out and call it a cheap shot, but the insinuation is there, along with the disgust of how Rose portrayed what happened the night before the game.
But let’s start with what happened during the game. Fosse, in his first full big-league season, replaced American League starting catcher Bill Freehan of Detroit in the fifth inning. Fosse was behind the plate in the bottom of the 12th when Rose and Billy Grabarkewitz singled with two out, putting runners on first and second for the National League. Jim Hickman then lofted a single to center, and Rose took off for home.
"I was waiting up the line for the throw from (center fielder) Amos Otis, not there to block anybody,’’ Fosse recalled recently in advance of the 2012 All-Star Game (7:30 p.m. ET, Tuesday, live on FOX). “I was just there to accept the throw.’’
Then came a jarring jolt from Rose that ended up derailing the budding career of Fosse, who spent all or part of 12 years in the big leagues but never reached his potential because of a broken shoulder that doctors did not initially diagnose.
That, however, does not eat at Fosse as much as the idea Rose tries to downplay the incident as something that happened among friends.
"The thing that continues to upset me and my wife is that Pete Rose continually says he and I were out until the early hours in the morning,’’ Fosse said. "What happened is (Indians teammate) Sam McDowell went to Cincinnati that Sunday after our game in Cleveland.
"Unlike today, where they have FanFest and all the stuff going on, there was nothing going on in 1970. We stayed at the hotel and had a workout on Monday. Monday evening, we ran into Pete and he asked us to dinner — Pete, his wife, Karolyn; Sam, his wife, Carol, and me and my wife, Carol. We went to dinner and talked baseball.’’
Fosse said the three couples went to Rose’s home after dinner and talked baseball until about 1 a.m., when Fosse, McDowell and their wives went back to the All-Star hotel.
"Pete says it was 4 o’clock, and it was just Ray and Pete, out having a good time,” Fosse said. “What happened to our wives and Sam?’’
Here’s what Rose has told the media about the night before the game:
“For the last five or six years, for some unknown reason, Ray Fosse is really mad at me. I mean, he was at my house the night before the game. I took him and Sam McDowell out to eat, and now he says he didn’t even go to my house.
As for his collision with Fosse, Rose has said: “Heck, I didn’t do anything dirty. I actually went over him and tagged the plate with my right hand, but he had the plate blocked and my knee hit his shoulder.”
What is unquestioned is that Fosse’s career took a definite detour after that play at the plate.
Fosse, then 23, went into the 1970 All-Star break hitting .312 with 16 home runs and 45 RBI. He batted .297 after the break but hit only two more home runs.
Fosse spent his next eight seasons bouncing from Cleveland to Oakland to Seattle and finally Milwaukee. He compiled only a .255 batting average, hit only 43 home runs and drove in only 270 runs in the final 2,533 at-bats of his big-league career.
"My career completely changed once I was hit,’’ Fosse lamented. "Unfortunately, at that time, there was no such thing as (magnetic resonance imaging exams). Whether that would have made a difference, I don’t know.
"I went to the hospital with the trainer from Baltimore, my wife and mother. They X-rayed my shoulder and said they didn’t see a thing. I could lift my shoulder (only) about 90 degrees, but they kept saying everything was fine. We went to Kansas City (after the break) to play the Royals and I was hitting fourth and catching. I played the rest of July and August with a fractured and separated shoulder.’’
And then, in the third game of September, Fosse broke his left index finger and was sidelined for the rest of the season.
It was not until the start of the 1971 season that the Indians discovered the damage that had been inflicted upon Fosse’s shoulder.
"I knew I was hurt but didn’t know to what extent,’’ he said. "I worked out during the offseason, trying to rehab, and made it through spring training, but the shoulder was killing me. They finally re-X-rayed it and it showed the line where the fracture was. With the amount of time that had lapsed, the only thing they could do was re-break it.
"I was making $12,000 a year, and you were playing this year for next year so you didn’t want somebody to take your job. I wish someone had told me I was hurt and couldn’t play. But back then, if you didn’t stick it out, you were faking an injury.’’
And the problems from that break lingered.
"The amazing thing is there were 20 Hall of Famers in that game (including AL manager Earl Weaver), and it’s that play that people talk about,’’ Fosse said. "If you look at the impact and then see the rollover, that is how hard it was because normally you hit the ground and stop.
"I don’t care if someone is 150 pounds or 300 pounds. If they are coming full blast at you while you are standing still and they hit you, you are going to feel it. There was no fake about it.’’
The reality has never been lost on Fosse.