Sunday, September 22, 2002

#3 Cinergy/Riverfront Moment

July 14, 1970: Rose crashes into Fosse
in dramaticAll-Star finish

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Pete Rose rams into Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game. "I thought I hit a mountain," Rose said, but it was Fosse whose career was never the same after the hit.
The Associated Press file

To appreciate the significance of what Pete Rose did in the 12th inning of the 1970 All-Star Game at Riverfront Stadium, one first has to understand how much the All-Star Game has changed since then.

The All-Star Game has become, in the 32 years since that night, a glorified exhibition game overshadowed by the Home Run Derby that precedes it.

One no longer can imagine a catcher blocking home plate trying to stop the winning run from scoring - as Ray Fosse did in 1970.

One cannot imagine a base runner intentionally crashing into that catcher in an attempt to dislodge the ball - as Pete Rose did in 1970.

Nobody cares who wins the game any more.

And can you imagine a player these days being in a position to say what American League star Carl Yastrzemski said after the 1970 All-Star Game? "Boy, I'm tired. I didn't expect to play the whole game."

The whole game? Nowadays, if you play three innings, you played a lot.

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And why had Yaz played the entire game, anyway? Because the AL was trying to snap its seven-year losing streak.

"Boy, this stuff (losing to the NL) is unbelievable!" Yaz said after the game.

That was back in the day when there was pride among the players in their respective leagues. The National Leaguers referred derisively to the American League as "the junior circuit," because it was 25 years younger than the NL.

That '70 show:

Things you might have forgotten about the 1970 All-Star Game.

Tom Seaver started for the NL, Jim Palmer for the AL.

Ray Fosse scored the game's first run (Carl Yastrzemski's RBI single in the sixth) and made it 2-0 with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Brooks Robinson's two-run triple in the eighth put the AL up 4-1.

Before Rose hit his 12th-inning single, Reds players were 0-for-10 with seven strikeouts (Johnny Bench, three Ks; Rose and Perez, two apiece).

The only good thing the Reds' four All-Stars had done prior to Rose's scoring the winning run were two innings of shutout relief by Jim Merritt, and Bench throwing out Tommy Harper on an attempted steal. Yastrzemski was voted the game's Most Valuable Player (four hits, one RBI, one run and outstanding defensive plays in the outfield and at first base).

And get this: Back then, even the U.S. president cared.

Yes, President Richard Nixon, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch, was still in his seat and watching intently when Rose scored the winning run three hours later.

Here is what set the stage for Rose's transcendent act: The NL was trailing 4-1 going into the ninth inning against Catfish Hunter, making his first appearance in the game. Dick Dietz led off with a home run (it was the first one hit over the center-field wall in 2-week-old Riverfront Stadium). That was followed by two singles - one by Houston's Joe Morgan - and then came an RBI by Willie McCovey and a sacrifice fly by Roberto Clemente to tie it.

In the 12th inning, Rose ripped a two-out single, advanced to second on a Billy Grabarkewitz single and roared around third on a Jim Hickman single to Amos Otis in center field.

"You gotta go! You gotta go!" coach Leo Durocher yelled as he waved Rose around third.

After he rounded third, still with a full head of steam, Rose looked over his left shoulder, noting Otis was charging the ball and getting ready to come up throwing. This meant a good, strong throw probably would beat him there.

About two-thirds of the way between third and home, Rose started to make a move. He was thinking of trying a head-first slide if he could find a hole to get by Fosse - even though Rose normally preferred a feet-first slide at home. He didn't see a hole for a head-first or a feet-first slide. Fosse was positioned just up the third-base line and had home plate blocked, so Rose decided his only real chance was a collision, either to knock down Fosse before the ball got there or to dislodge it just after it arrived.

Fosse later admitted he could have moved a step inside the line and swiped at Rose as he slid by. But to Fosse, that was the wrong play.

He knew people were watching on TV and President Nixon was still in the stands. Most important, he knew the other players were watching.

Rose drove his shoulder into Fosse, separating him from the ball a split second after it would have arrived in his glove. The collision sent Fosse tumbling backward, and the ball shot all the way to the backstop as Rose fell over Fosse onto home plate.

"I thought I hit a mountain," Rose said of the solid, 205-pound catcher.

Immediately after the game, in response to a question from AL teammate and former Red Frank Robinson ("Could he have gotten around you?"), Fosse said: "Yeah. He could have slid and gotten his hand in."

Robinson, who had befriended Rose when Rose was a rookie in 1963 and stuck by him until the Reds traded Robinson after the 1965 season, told AL teammate Frank Howard: "He (Rose) didn't have to do that to Fosse."

AL manager Earl Weaver, who was also Robinson's manager with the Orioles, defended Rose's decision to ram Fosse, however.

"That's definitely the only way to play," Weaver said. "You play to win. You don't compromise."

In 1985, in an extensive interview with the Enquirer about the play, Fosse said: "After watching the tape and (talking with Rose and) knowing who Rose is, (I'm satisfied) he'll do anything to score a run, but he won't intentionally try to hurt you{hellip}.

"I was playing with guys like Brooks and Frank Robinson and Harmon Killebrew. I wanted the respect of my peers. I wasn't going to look like a fool and get out of the way."

Fosse knows Rose could have hit him even harder.

"He could've put me in the seats if he'd come straight on with a football tackle," Fosse said. "Pete Rose at full speed and 200 pounds is a load."

Epilogue: Fosse, who was only 23 when Rose rammed him, played nine more seasons but never was as good as he'd been before the injuries he suffered July 14, 1970 (separated and fractured throwing shoulder). Rose missed three games with a bruised knee.

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