Today is the 50th anniversary of the 1970 all-star game, one of the most exciting and memorable mid-summer classics ever. The National League won the game, coming from three runs behind to tie the score in the ninth inning, and then winning the game in the twelfth frame when Pete Rose bowled over Ray Fosse to settle the affair.
The game was played in Cincinnati. President Richard Nixon, who was attending a governors’ conference in Louisville, popped over to watch.
This SABR article summarizes the contest nicely. (Feel free to skip the stuff about student protests and the Vietnam War.)
You could hardly have asked for a better matchup of starting pitchers — Tom Seaver for the NL and Jim Palmer of the AL, both among the top 15 or 20 starters of all time, in my book.
The starting lineups were stacked too. Both teams featured four future Hall of Famers, not counting the pitchers. The AL had Luis Aparicio, Carl Yazstrzemski (who had four hits), Frank Robinson, and Harmon Killebrew. The NL countered with Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Tony Perez, and Johnny Bench.
As usual during that era, the NL had more firepower on the bench, including Joe Morgan, Willie McCovey, Roberto Clemente, and the aforementioned Pete Rose, each of whom would play a big part in the NL’s victory.
Brooks Robinson was the only non-pitcher future Hall of Famer who came off the bench for the AL. He delivered two hits and two RBIs.
Seaver and Palmer were both outstanding. Each allowed no runs and only one hit in three innings.
Three other future Hall of Fame pithcers were roughed up, however. Gaylord Perry gave up two runs in two innings of work. So did Bob Gibson. That’s how the NL found itself facing a 4-1 deficit in the ninth.
With Catfish Hunter coming on the close out the game, it looked like the AL would achieve a rare all-star game victory. However, Hunter gave up three runs while retiring only one batter.
Dick Dietz led off with a home run. Bud Harrelson and Joe Morgan sandwiched singles around an out by Cito Gaston.
Earl Weaver brought in a lefty, Fritz Peterson, to pitch to Willie McCovey. But the big first baseman singled home Harrelson, and Clemente drove in Morgan with a sacrifice fly. The star-laden NL bench had come through.
In the bottom of the twelfth, after Claude Osteen had pitched three scoreless innings for the NL, it was Rose’s turn to make the difference. With two out and no one on base, he singled off of Clyde Wright. Billy Grabarkewitz followed with a single to left. Rose stopped at second base.
That brought up Jim Hickman. He singled to center field. Amos Otis fielded the ball and threw a strike to home plate. Ray Fosse, at 6-2 and 215 pounds, had the plate blocked. Arriving just before the ball, Rose lowered his shoulder and barreled into Fosse. Down went the big catcher, who did a somersault across the plate as Rose scored the winning run.
The play was controversial. Rose contended that he started to slide, but the way Fosse was set gave him no route to the plate. It appears from replay that, in fact, Rose did prepare to slide headfirst and then changed course, running over Fosse instead.
Fosse, a Gold Glove catcher, was great at blocking the plate. He did so memorably in Game 2 of the 1973 World Series, which I attended. In the tenth inning of that contest, Harrelson tried to score from third on fly ball, but Fosse tagged him out (at least according to the umpire) as Harrelson ran by. “I had nowhere to slide,” said the 160 pound shortstop. “I saw a piece of the plate on the right side, so I went for it. [Fosse] really had the plate blocked off.”
Unless one takes the position that players should not go all out in all-star games — and I don’t believe that — Rose made the right play when he slammed into Fosse.
The same cannot be said for a play earlier that year in which Rose took out a catcher. In his baseball autobiography A Catcher’s Story, Jim Hibbs says that Rose attacked his knee in a home plate collision during an exhibition game between Cincinnati and its top farm team, Indianapolis. Rose mentions the play in his book Charlie Hustle.
As Hibbs tells it, his left leg was in position to block the plate, while his right leg was extended to help him deal with the throw, which was to his right. According to Hibbs, Rose’s proper play was a head first slide, with his left hand touching the outside of the plate, which Jim couldn’t really block with his leg. Had Rose made that play, the sweep tag would have missed him by a foot.
Instead, Rose launched his helmet and shoulders at the catcher’s exposed knee. Rose then jumped to his feet and shouted, “That’ll teach you to block the f___ing plate.”
But why would Rose, in an exhibition game, want to “teach” a player in his organization — a potential teammate — not to block the plate?
The injury Hibbs sustained severely hampered his career. As for Fosse, his power fell off dramatically during the rest of 1970, and he never had another big year at the plate.
Ironically, Rose missed three games on account of the collision. Fosse missed none. X-rays did not reveal a problem, so Fosse kept playing in spite of the pain.
It was not until the following year that Fosse learned he had a fracture and separation of his shoulder. The inflammation and swelling were such that the fracture did not show up on the original X-rays.
The National League’s victory in the 1970 all-star game was its eighth straight. The streak would end the following year in a memorable game in Detroit. The National League then proceeded to win eleven straight all-star games.
Below, is the Rose-Fosse play. Below that, Rose gives his side of the story.