A promising career derailed
All-Star collision with Rose likely hindered Fosse
CLEVELAND -- Ray Fosse spent 12 years in the big leagues. He won two World Series, two Gold Gloves and made two All-Star teams.Yet all anyone remembers is one play in one All-Star Game. Human memory is a funny thing. We don't think in terms of words or statistics or even facts. We think in terms of images. And for Ray Fosse, the extraordinary image of his career is of Pete Rose running him down at home plate on July 14, 1970. In 1965, Major League Baseball instituted what was then called the Amateur Free Agent Draft in an effort to balance the amateur player market. Before 1965, amateur players were un-restricted free agents; they could be signed by any team that was willing to meet their price tag. It goes without saying that no one expected Fosse's star to flare so violently and so fleetingly. The Indians took Fosse out of Marion High School in Marion, Ill., with their first draft choice. He was the seventh overall pick in that 1965 draft. Fosse's early Major League career took a familiar form. He got cups of coffee in 1967 and 1968, making his Major League debut on Sept. 9, 1967. In 1968, he got into only one game as a defensive replacement. The catcher got his first extended action in 1969, when he hit just .172 in 116 at-bats. But in 1970, Fosse blossomed, hitting .307, with a .361 on-base percentage and 18 home runs for the Indians. Fosse was one of the better position players on a team that went 76-86 and finished 5th in the AL East. He was 23 years old that season, seemingly on the verge of an exciting and lengthy Major League career. "It was kind of a magical first half for me," Fosse told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1999. But of course, the All-Star Game proved less magical for Fosse. He was standing a few feet up the third-base line when Rose bowled into him; he suffered a separated shoulder in the collision. To this day, his shoulder still hurts. "If the play had not occurred, who knows what direction my life would have taken?" Fosse told the Chronicle. "I had 16 homers at the break. Could I have hit 25 to 30 consistently every year?" Fosse, nicknamed "Mule," played through the injury. But he was never quite the same. He hit .309 in August of 1970, but with only two home runs. And a broken finger early in September ended his season prematurely. Over the rest of his career, he never replicated those numbers; never came close, really. He hit .276 in 1971 and made another All-Star Game, but all of his significant numbers were down. When his numbers declined even further in 1972, the Indians traded him to the Oakland Athletics as part of a package for Dave Duncan and George Hendrick. Fosse was the everyday catcher for Oakland in 1973 when the A's won their second of three straight world championships. He caught exceptional pitchers like Ken Holtzman, Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers. That year, he donned the tools of ignorance 141 times. That mark was a team record until Ramon Hernandez caught 142 games in 2000. But his numbers were down again in 1973. And in 1974, he suffered several injuries that allowed Gene Tenace to supplant him as the A's starting catcher. Fosse would spend 1975 in Oakland, but in 136 at-bats, he hit just .140. Fosse was sold to the Indians before the 1976 season, and hit .301 in 276 at-bats. But in 1977, the Indians traded him again, this time to Seattle. After missing the entire 1978 season with injury, Fosse played only 19 games with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1979. On April 3, 1980, the Brewers released Fosse, and his career was over. After his playing career, Fosse joined the Oakland Athletics broadcast booth in 1986, where he remains today. Last July, he was named one of the Cleveland Indians' Top 100 players.
Andrew Bare is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.