1970 ALL-STAR GAME THE WAY IT WAS

Cincinnati Riverfront Stadium

As Told By Ray Fosse

For 46 years, stories have been written, told and retold about the 1970 All-Star Game collision at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio in the bottom of the 12th inning. I have done many interviews requested by various writers, usually associated with the city in which the All Star Game is played each year. I was told 60 million people watched the All Star Game on television, and 58,838 fans filled Riverfront Stadium at 8:00 p.m. on July 14, 1970. Richard Nixon, the President of the United States of America, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and was sitting in the front row. Sports and historical events collided in Cincinnati at the All Star Game. This is the way it was in 1970. 

I started the 1970 baseball season in March with the Cleveland Indians in Tucson, Arizona. I was having a good spring, and had signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians owned by Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Stouffer. At the end of spring training in March, Carol and I decided to get married before the season started instead of at the end of the season in Carol’s hometown, Tracy, California. I asked Alvin Dark, the manager, for permission to fly to Reno, Nevada to get married in Reno where we met in 1966. I was a member of the Reno Silver Sox Baseball Team, an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, and Carol was a student at University of Nevada, Reno, UNR. Alvin gave me his permission and said, “You can go. I want you back because you are going to be the opening day catcher, and I want you to catch the exhibition game in Tempe, Arizona on April 5. I want Carol on the team charter to start the season or I will fine you $250.00.” Alvin knew it was important for Carol and me to be together to start the season. Carol was teaching seventh grade in Manhattan Beach, California, and her principal made the arrangements for her classes so she could join me. We landed in Cleveland late on April 5. We had our honeymoon in Cleveland on the off day, April 6. I started the home opener on April 7 against Dave McNally and the Baltimore Orioles. 

During the early part of the 1970 season, Duke Sims and I shared the catching duties. Duke started when a right handed pitcher started against us, and I started when there was a left handed pitcher. On Saturday, April 25, I started against Tommy John of the White Sox. On Sunday, April 26, I arrived early to take batting practice with the non-starters since a right handed pitcher, Joel Horlen, was starting for the White Sox. During batting practice, Hoot Evers, our hitting coach, told Alvin Dark that I was swinging the bat well, and he should consider starting me against right handed pitchers also. I was the catcher that day against the right handed pitcher, and after that, I was the regular catcher for the Indians. Once I started catching every day, prior to the All-Star Game, I hit 16 home runs and was hitting over .300. I, also, had a 23 game hitting streak which ended on July 3, 1970 in the first game of a doubleheader at Boston against Red Sox pitcher Ray Culp.

It had been a very exciting year in the Major Leagues with the Cleveland Indians. I was surprised when Earl Weaver, the manager of the Baltimore Orioles and American League All-Star Team Manager, contacted the Indians, and I was informed that I had been selected to be on the All-Star Team. The fans had voted for Detroit Tigers catcher, Bill Freehan, to be the American League starting catcher, and I was to be the second catcher in the game. Alvin Dark’s wife, Jackie, told Carol that she hoped I wouldn’t get hurt because players in the All Star Game  play so hard that, sometimes, they get hurt.

After the doubleheader against the Red Sox in Cleveland on Sunday, July 12, Carol and I, with our bags packed for the All-Star Game, met Carol and Sam McDowell, Indians starting pitcher and All-Star, at the Cleveland Airport. Photographers were waiting to take our picture before we boarded the plane. This picture was hand colored for TV.

On Monday, July 13, we had an afternoon workout with the American League Team at Riverfront Stadium. Riverfront Stadium had just opened on June 30, 1970 with the Reds hosting the Atlanta Braves in the first game played at the new stadium. Two weeks later, Riverfront Stadium hosted the All-Star Game. For the workout on Monday and the game Tuesday night, it was very hot and humid. The artificial surface in the new stadium made it even hotter. The artificial turf laid over an asphalt base created a very hot playing surface, and the temperature on the turf during the afternoon workout on Monday was estimated to be over 100 degrees. Since it was still hot and humid, I was happy the All-Star Game was scheduled to be played at night. 

After the workout on Monday afternoon, Sam and I went back to the hotel to meet our wives. That’s when Carol and I met Pete Rose for the first time. We were standing with Carol and Sam McDowell in the lobby of the Omni Netherland Hotel discussing our dinner plans when Pete, who knew Sam, said hello to Sam. Pete invited Sam, Carol, my wife, Carol, and me to dinner. That evening at dinner Carol and I met Karolyn Rose, Pete’s wife.

While our wives visited, Sam, Pete and I talked baseball. At dinner, Pete wondered why I kept inquiring about Johnny Bench, the Reds catcher and starting catcher for the National League All-Star Team. Since we didn’t play Cincinnati and I was in the American League, I was interested in his career.  

Carol and I had been married three months, and were still newlyweds at the time we had dinner with Carol and Sam McDowell and Karolyn and Pete Rose. After dinner, Pete and Karolyn invited Sam, Carol, my wife Carol, and me to their house. We accepted and continued the conversation about baseball. Carol and I left the Rose’s house, and were back at our hotel by 1:00 a.m. Since the All-Star Game was the next night, we didn’t think getting to our room at that time was too late. Carol had to meet my mother at the airport the next day, Tuesday, and I went to the park to prepare for the All-Star Game.

When I went to Riverfront Stadium for the workout on Monday and the game on Tuesday, I had a chance to be in the clubhouse and on the field with many of my childhood heroes. I was a 23 year old first time All-Star, and was having the chance to play with many future Hall of Famers on the American League Team and against many future Hall of Famers on the National League Team. I was able to see my baseball card collection come to life.
While I was at Riverfront Stadium getting ready for the All-Star Game, Carol was at the airport meeting my mother. The town of Marion, Illinois, my hometown, sent my mother to Cincinnati carrying a bouquet of yellow roses and a very long telegram which was signed by many of the people from Marion. Carol and my mother rushed from the airport to the hotel and to the game.

I had traded Carol’s ticket with the other wives for two tickets in a sold out stadium. I didn’t know where they were sitting until after the game. Carol and my mother were up so high at Riverfront Stadium that when the game ended with the home plate collision, they didn’t know what happened. They heard the call for an ambulance, and were told by a man sitting behind them with a transistor radio and binoculars that the catcher was hurt. Someone found Carol and my mother and escorted them to the clubhouse area where I was sitting on the trainer’s table with an ice pack on my left shoulder waiting for the ambulance. Carol and my mother rode in the ambulance with me to the hospital where my left shoulder was x-rayed. The x-ray did not show any indication of a fracture and separation. I was released from the hospital in Cincinnati, and we returned to the hotel. (April 1971 in Cleveland, the left shoulder was x-rayed again, and showed a fracture and separation.)

The next day, July 15, Carol and I flew back to Cleveland, and, then, to Kansas City to begin the second half of the season. On Thursday, July 16, I arrived at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, still in a lot of pain from the collision. I looked at the lineup card, and saw I was catching and hitting 4th. Without saying anything, I went out to take batting practice, and realized I was not able to swing the same way, using my left arm, as I did when I hit 16 home runs before the All-Star Game. After I took batting practice, there was too much pain in my left shoulder to swing the bat effectively. I told the manager, Alvin Dark. He said, “Don’t worry about swinging the bat, just handle the pitchers.” Since the pain was in my left shoulder and arm but not my throwing arm, I continued to play without missing a game, even though I was not able to lift my left arm above my head without pain.

Every year since July 14, 1970, I have watched the replay of the 12th inning in Cincinnati and the 1970 All-Star collision. Even now as I watch the replay, I would not have changed my position in attempting to catch the ball and tag the runner, Pete Rose. I was always told by my coaches to go to where the ball was thrown instead of standing on home plate. As I was waiting for the throw from Amos Otis with my arms extended, I was hit by Pete Rose. The impact of the collision was so hard that my catcher’s mitt left my hand, and the ball flew over my head. I never touched the baseball. Many years later I wondered what happened to the baseball because it flew over my head. The emphasis was on the collision, but I never touched the ball. Clyde Wright, the pitcher in the 12th inning, told me, “Watch the rest of the collision, and you will see me behind home plate catching the ball.”

That’s the way it was at the 1970 All-Star Game. I wouldn’t change a thing. Long after I am gone, I’m sure they will still be showing the game ending collision to future generations. It’s a great game that I loved playing and still love.

April 4, 2016, 46 years after the 1970 All-Star Game, Carol and I celebrated our 46th anniversary. Our daughters, Nikki (Nicole) and Lindsey, are happily married, and we have three grandchildren. After the 1970 All-Star Game in Cincinnati, I played 9 more years for a total of 11 years in the Major Leagues. Three of the 9 years, I played for the Oakland A’s winning World Championships in 1973 and 1974 with managers Dick Williams and Alvin Dark and owner Charlie Finley. I have been fortunate to stay in baseball, and work for the Oakland A’s since 1984, broadcasting on A’s radio for 31 years and on television for Comcast SportsNet California for 28 years.