Later this week, I’ll be releasing a book on All-Star games during the 1970s. Here’s an excerpt from the chapter on the 1970 Mid-Summer Classic. Enjoy!
Brand new Riverfront Stadium, opened only 2 weeks earlier, was the site of the 41st All-Star game. The 1969 World Series skippers, New York’s Gil Hodges and Baltimore’s Earl Weaver, selected their own aces, Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer respectively, as the starting pitchers. Fans chose the starting position player lineups for the first time since 1957, when ballot-stuffing in Cincinnati had led to voting being taken away from the fans.
Palmer was joined in the American League starting lineup by his Orioles teammates Boog Powell, who would go on to be the league’s 1970 MVP, and right fielder Frank Robinson. Robinson was joined in the outfield by veteran masher Frank Howard (aka the Capital Punisher) of the Senators, who was in the midst of 3 straight 40-HR seasons, and 3-time batting champ Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox. Detroit’s Bill Freehan, a 5-time Gold Glover making his 7th All-Star appearance, was the catcher, and 36-year-old Luis Aparicio of the White Sox, en route to a career-best .313 average and 173 hits, got the nod at shortstop. 1969 AL MVP Harmon Killebrew, who had led all of baseball with 49 homers and 149 RBI, was the third baseman, and Minnesota teammate Rod Carew, the defending batting champ, was picked at second base. A knee injury kept Carew out of the lineup, and he was replaced by Baltimore’s Dave Johnson, giving the Birds 4 of 9 starters.
Hometown heroes Johnny Bench, on his way to his first MVP award, and fellow Reds’ slugger Tony Perez were the only teammates to each reach 40 HR in 1970; they started at catcher and third base respectively for a National League squad carrying a 7 game winning streak into the contest. Dick Allen was voted the starting NL first baseman in his only season with the Cardinals, while Cubs keystone combo Glenn Beckert and Don Kessinger rounded out the infield. Perennial All-Stars and first ballot Hall of Famers Willie Mays (CF) of the Giants, and Hank Aaron (RF) of the Braves were easy choices – Mays was an All-Star selection each year dating back to 1954, and Aaron, since 1955. Aaron’s teammate Rico Carty, who batted .342 in limited action in 1969, didn’t even make the ballot, but the major league’s leading hitter was written in as a starter nonetheless by the astute voters. Carty continued to terrorize opposing pitchers in the second half of 1970, finishing the year at .366; no one else in the big leagues batted higher than .329.
Seaver and Palmer exchanged zeroes for three innings, yielding only one hit apiece- singles by Yastrzemski and Kessinger. The Reds’ Jim Merritt followed suit with two more scoreless innings, matched by Cleveland’s Sam McDowell. Finally, in the top 6th the deadlock was broken when catcher Ray Fosse of the Indians greeted Gaylord Perry of the Giants with a leadoff base hit, advanced to second on a sacrifice by McDowell, and came around to score on Yastrzemski’s 2-out single.
McDowell survived his third inning of work unscathed, pitching around two walks in the bottom 6th. In the 7th the American leaguers struck again against Perry, who went on to win 23 games in 1970, loading the bases on hits by Baltimore’s Brooks Robinson and Davey Johnson sandwiched around a walk to the Twins’ Tony Oliva. Fosse hit a bullet into deep centerfield that was tracked down by Cito Gaston of the Padres, who was enjoying a career season that would see him reach career bests with 29 homers, 93 RBI, and a .318 average. Robinson tagged up from third and scored easily to make it 2-0.
McDowell gave way in the bottom 7th to Minnesota’s Jim Perry, Gaylord’s brother. The NL finally got on the board after a leadoff single by the Mets’ Bud Harrelson, a walk to Gaston, and a HBP by Houston’s Denis Menke loaded the bases with nobody out. Perry escaped with minimal damage after serving up a run-scoring double play grounder to pinch-hitter Willie McCovey of the Giants, the reigning league MVP in the middle of a 3-year run as the NL slugging champ, and then striking out Allen. In the 8th the AL tacked on more runs against the eventual Cy Young Award winner, Bob Gibson of St Louis. Brooks Robinson’s triple to deep center scored Yaz and Detroit’s Willie Horton, who had both singled.
The 4-1 margin held up into the bottom 9th as Oakland’s Catfish Hunter entered to nail things down. Giants’ catcher Dick Dietz immediately greeted Hunter with a home run, and after singles to Harrelson and Houston’s Joe Morgan, Yankees’ lefty Fritz Peterson took over, only to give up a one-out RBI single to McCovey which sent Morgan to third. Peterson’s teammate Mel Stottlemyre came in from there, surrendering a liner to Pittsburgh’s Roberto Clemente that Kansas City’s Amos Otis flagged down, but the speedy Morgan tagged and scored the tying run. The Reds’ Pete Rose struck out to send the game into extra innings, but it would not be the last time he was heard from.
The Dodgers Claude Osteen and Stottlemyre each worked 1-2-3 frames in the 10th, and Osteen pitched around an Oliva double to survive the 11th , while the Angels’ Clyde Wright shut down the NL in order in the bottom half. Osteen returned to pitched the 12th, and after surrendering a 2-out double to Yastrzemski, he walked Horton intentionally before retiring Otis.
Wright was sailing along after getting Joe Torre of St. Louis and Clemente on grounders, and it looked like the contest may never end. Then Rose hit a sharp single to center, and the Dodgers’ Billy Grabarkewitz followed with a hit into left field, moving Rose up to second base. Chicago’s Jim Hickman, who had come on for Carty in the 5th then later moved over to first base, belted a liner for a clean hit into center field. Otis, who had 16 outfield assists in 1970, fired a one-hopper on target toward Fosse, who was up the line looking to block the plate as Rose raced around third. If the throw ever did touch Fosse, it no more than grazed his mitt, which was knocked clean off his hand when Rose steamrolled him and tagged home with his right hand for a 5-4 National League victory.
Osteen, who had pitched 3 scoreless innings, earned the win, while Wright took the loss. Tom Seaver led all pitchers with 4 strikeouts; Palmer, McDowell, and Jim Perry all recorded 3. Carl Yastrzemski tied an All-Star game record with 4 hits, and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
So much has been made of the game’s final play since then, with the legend growing that Fosse’s career was completely derailed as a result. But the reality is Fosse never went on the disabled list after the collision, though he should have. Doctors only realized the following spring that Fosse had actually fractured and separated his shoulder on the play, and it healed in the wrong place. As it was, x-rays that night were negative, and Fosse played in each of his club’s next 9 contests, barely missing a game for two months until his season was cut short by an unrelated finger injury in September. He finished the year hitting a healthy .307, just 2 points below his.309 mark at the All-Star break, though he did hit only 2 homers in the second half. In 1971 Fosse enjoyed another All-Star and Gold Glove season, catching 133 games, followed by 134 games in 1972 and 143 with Oakland in ’73. He averaged 10 homers a season in those following 3 years. Was Fosse’s power minimized long term as a result of the shoulder troubles he played through the rest of his career? Possibly, though after suffering a neck injury in 1974 breaking up a fight between Oakland teammates Reggie Jackson and Bill North, Fosse’s offensive output sunk even further, and he was never a regular again.
One thing is for certain: baseball in 1970 was played by hard-nosed catchers who took away a path to home plate whenever they could, and equally aggressive runners who used any legal means to get past or through a defender in their way. Pete Rose certainly received a lot of attention, both good and bad, for the play, and was happy using the resulting fanfare to perpetrate his ‘Charlie
Hustle’ image. The All-Star game in 1970 meant a great deal to everyone involved, and winning was important enough for Ray Fosse to completely block off home plate without the baseball against one of the game’s most well known blood and guts players. The surprise to me is not that Pete Rose lowered his shoulder and ran over Ray Fosse to score the winning run, but that anyone could doubt that he, or for that matter just about any of the other men selected to play that night, would have gone about it in any other way.
My pdf book, 1970s Baseball: A History of the Decade’s All-Star Games, is now available for $3.95 through PayPal.
PayPal JGersbeckMBA@aol.com (and be sure to include the email address where you’d like it sent) to receive a copy.