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.”
By Glen Sparks
The paper All-Star game ballot is the latest loser to the digital age. All-Star voting will be done exclusively online beginning this season, according to a memo issued by Major League Baseball.
The reason for the change? Saving trees and money. Bob Bowman, president of business and media for MLB, said on-line voting last year amounted to 80 percent of ballots cast and that 16 million paper ballots did not get used.
“We therefore have made the decision to go green, while also saving the cost of managing an online program,” Bowman wrote in a memo.
So, the tradition of getting your ballot and fiddling around for a pen or your keys to punch out a vote for your favorite players (er, the most qualified candidates) is over, at least for now. Apparently, none of the other leagues (NBA, NHL) offer paper ballots anymore, either. The upside: no more hanging chad jokes. Those got old fast.
(A little bit of history now. The All-Star game began in 1933, hosted by Comiskey Park in Chicago. Baseball put on two games from 1959 through 1963, one at the mid-way point of the season and another at the end. Fans have voted for the starting eight for every National League and American League squad since 1970. The N.L. has won 43 times, the A.L. 40 times. There was a 1-1 tie at Fenway Park in 1961 due to rain and a big ol’ embarrassing 7-7 tie at Miller Park in Milwaukee in 2002.)
This column offers the obligatory sentimental take on baseball’s decision to go paperless. This one thanks the game for understanding what century it is.
Really, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. You can call it a break with tradition, but so was artificial turf, the multi-purpose stadium, the DH, the sans-a-belt uniform, eliminating ladies’ day and dollar beer, playing Metallica between innings, having opening day in the Eastern hemisphere … the list goes on.
I am guessing that here in the early spring of 2015, just about everyone has computer access. At least most baseball fans probably do. If you don’t own a computer, you can reserve some time at the local library for All-Star voting. (Of course, if you’re reading this, lack of computer access probably is not one of the problems you’re dealing with in this world.)
Two suggestions as long as we’re going this route:
No. 1: Some traditionalists might still like to fill out a paper ballot. As a way to remember what it was like when they were kids. Or, just to remember what it was like last season. Maybe MLB could allow some paper ballots to be placed at a few kiosks at the ballpark. That way, you wouldn’t have ushers counting out ballots for an entire row and passing them down. If the 16 million figure is accurate (It seems high, but I don’t want to do the math.), then that does seem like a waste. Especially if you consider that only four million total ballots were actually cast.
No. 2: As I recall (Hey, it’s been almost a whole year.), ushers began handing out ballots after the first month of the season. Some guy off to a hot first couple of weeks would be an early leader before hitting .243 from May 3 to the end of the season. Wouldn’t e-selections be tabulated instantly? If so, maybe the online voting could begin June 1 and conclude in early July. By early June, a third of the season is in the books. Voting later would give fans a better idea of who really deserves an All-Star nod.
Anyway, the real problem isn’t in the voting. Paper, online, it doesn’t matter to me. (The typical tree might enjoy giving up a branch in order to assist in honoring the National Pastime’s finest. Actually, isn’t this why we have tree farms?)
No, the real problem continues to be the game itself. Why does the outcome of baseball’s Mid-Summer Classic decide home-field advantage in the World Series? Begun in 2003, this is a 12-year-old tradition that we can certainly end.