By Glen Sparks
Pete Rose liked to say stuff like, “I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” So, maybe it isn’t surprising that he barreled headfirst into home plate and tore apart Ray Fosse’s left shoulder at the 1970 All-Star game. Rose, after all, represented the winning run.
Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati hosted that memorable game. Rose, 29-years-old and in his eighth season with the Reds, was the local boy (Western Hills High School) who had made good. He was playing in his fifth All-Star game and had won National League batting titles the previous two seasons.
Fosse, 23, from Marion, Ill., was in his first full season with the Cleveland Indians, who had selected him with the seventh overall pick in the 1965 amateur draft. The good people of Marion sent Fosse a congratulatory telegram with 1,713 signatures on it when he made the All-Star team.
Tom Seaver started the 1970 Mid-Summer Classic for the National League, Jim Palmer started for the American League. The A.L. struck first, in the top of the sixth inning. Fosse singled off Gaylord Perry and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sam McDowell. Carl Yastrzemski singled in Fosse two batters later.
The A.L. led 4-1 going into the bottom of the ninth inning and with Catfish Hunter on the mound. Hunter gave up a solo home run to Dick Deitz and two more hits after that. Skipper Earl Weaver brought in Fritz Peterson to pitch. Peterson promptly gave up a run-scoring single to Willie McCovey and headed to the showers.
Weaver replaced Peterson with Mel Stottlemyre. Roberto Clemente, hitting for Bob Gibson, lofted a sacrifice fly to tie the game 4-4. Extra innings followed.
With two outs in the bottom of the 12th inning, Pete Rose and Billy Grabarkewitz rapped base hits off Clyde Wright, who was pitching his second inning of relief. Jim Hickman added another single, this one to center fielder Amos Otis, who fired the ball home, on the third base side of the plate.
Down the line raced Peter Edward Rose, stocky, barrel-chested and eager to win. He spread out his arms, lifted his legs and, like he probably did every other time during his 24-year career, he dove with full force. The collision broke and separated Fosse’s shoulder.
Rose, who grew up in a tough household, said later, “If I didn’t hit him the way I did, I couldn’t have talked to my father afterward.”
Fosse kept playing for the Indians. The X-rays didn’t show much. He batted .297 the rest of the season but with just two home runs after hitting 16 in the first half. The injury, he said, forced him to change his swing and robbed him of his power.
The following year, results of another round of X-rays confirmed a fracture and a separation. Even so, Fosse made the 1971 All-Star team, the last time he would be so honored. He would go on to play 12 seasons in the big leagues with four teams, batting .256 with 61 career homers. Since 1986, he has broadcast games for the Oakland A’s.
Rose, of course, retired with a major-league record 4,256 base hits. He managed the Reds for a few seasons before getting into a heap of trouble after betting on baseball games. Baseball’s all-time hits leaders remains ineligible for Hall of Fame induction.
He also served a short federal prison stint for tax evasion. Ironically, he served that time at a prison in Marion, Ill., Fosse’s hometown. The people of Marion got a kick out of that, Fosse said.
Every year at All-Star time, Fosse knows reporters will ask him about the most famous collision in the game’s history. He understands. And, he still feels the pain.
“Like a knife sticking me in the shoulder,” he said in a recent article written by Scott Miller for cbssports.com. Even so, his marriage is still going strong after 43 years, and he has plenty of children and grandchildren. “I’m fortunate,” he says. “I’m blessed.”