The ninth and penultimate post in Red Reporter's count down of the 10 Greatest Moments in Reds All Star History. This is my attempt to rank the most memorable and exciting moments relevant to the Cincinnati Reds in the history of the Mid-Summer Classic.
July 14, 1970
I should preface this entry by pointing out the somewhat obvious: not all of these moments are ethically-neutral instances of good, clean play by Cincinnati Reds. They are "great" in the sense that they are both exciting and indelible. But the word "great" is also sometimes used in reference to tragedy. A controversial play that ended an All Star game in a way altogether different than a walk-off single, it would be hyperbolic to call Pete Rose plowing Ray Fosse a "tragedy." It was arguably foolish, reckless - and certainly unfortunate - but it perfectly epitomized Rose's approach to the game of baseball and remains one of the most infamous and iconic All Star moments in history.
The controversy surrounding this particular example of Charlie's hustle has been thoroughly debated and rehashed over the last 30+ years, so I'm sure I'm not going to open up any new lines of argument here. On one hand, barreling headlong into a catcher in a exhibition game - especially when a slide may have sufficed - shows, at best, poor judgment. On the other, Fosse was blocking the plate and the replay suggests Rose had originally intended to slide until his path was obstructed. It might also be said that Rose had only a split-second to deny his natural, competitive impulse. It's a legal play that's been relentlessly defended by players themselves, catchers and non-catchers alike. What I think trumps the fact that this was a defensible, rulebook-permitted play - however slightly - is that this was a completely meaningless game.
Rose is the bad guy on this one, even though he was the one who was sidelined after the collision, in large part because of his persona. He's been cavalier about the incident in later years and it's conceivable that he had the same disregard for Fosse when he heading toward home. How much that matters is completely open to debate.
1970 was Pete's fifth All Star appearance. Though the season ended as one of his finest at the plate, Rose watched from the dugout Perez and Bench took the field in the first inning at Riverfront. Rose played outfield exclusively in 1970 and it was Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Rico Carty who got the starting nods there.
Riverfront Stadium has just been completed and rendered game-ready roughly two weeks prior to the All Star Game. The race to the finish line was so frenzied that Atlanta was being kept as a contingency site. Cincinnati fans were in the midst of both a stadium transition and a transition in team personnel. Both were in evidence as the ASG. Frank Robinson suited up as a starter for the AL, while Joe Morgan, still an Astro, shared the bench with Pete Rose.
Reds fans were treated to a good game. One that would have been notable, if not memorable, in All Star history even if it hadn't ended the way it did. The NL's Tom Seaver and AL's Jim Palmer were superb in their three inning starts and it remained a 0-0 pitching duel through the fifth, the inning in which both Rose and Fosse entered as subs.
Rose struck out in his first at bat and the NL entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 4-1. With two runs in, Roberto Clemente sac-flied in Joe Morgan with two outs to tie the game. Rose struck out to send the game into extras. It remained 4-4 after 11 innings and looked like it would stay that way into a 13th inning. Rose came to the plate for the third time with two outs against Clyde Wright. He smacked single into a familiar patch of turf in center field, then advanced to second on a Billy Grabarkewitz single, bringing Jim Hickman to the plate.
Hickman punched the third-straight single of the inning. Rose, running on contact with two outs, made like Joe Nuxhall: Rounding third and heading for home, Rose was at full-bore. Amos Otis fielded the ball in LF and attempted to line his throw down the third base line to a waiting Ray Fosse at home. Rose looked primed to drop down and deliver his signature head-first slide (a reckless, though ultimately masochistic, play in itself). Once Fosse eclipsed home plate, Rose readjusted and delivered a cross check as Fosse groped for Otis' throw. The ball sailed passed Fosse and Rose had scored the game's winning run in a dance with the now-prostrate Fosse.
Like Scott Cousins to Buster Posey, Rose attempted to check on Fosse after scoring. Fosse's condition, from that point onward, had been the subject of some scrutiny. As this Deadspin debunk points out, Fosse did not go on the DL after the All Star Break in '70. This is probably the result of, willful or not, a missed diagnosis of a separated shoulder. Fosse played three more seasons as a full time starter, though the injury almost definitely affected his swing and ability to hit for power. The Deadspin piece makes a compelling case that a later incident much more significantly derailed Fosse's career. Four years after the collision, Fosse broke his neck trying to break up a clubhouse fight involving Reggie Jackson.
Whether Fosse's career was affected by Rose's game winning "hit" isn't essentially to deciding whether or not Rose was justified. Accidents, if you believe this to be one, happen. But getting injured during an All Star Game is ironic, unfortunate and sometimes avoidable.