When you hear the name Ray Fosse, you might immediately think of Pete Rose. This is a shame because when you say “Pete Rose,” there are about a million things you think of before Ray Fosse. Hit King. Charlie Hustle. Gambling. Kool-Aid commercials.
The two took part in a collision for the ages at the 1970 All-Star Game, and for many, that was the end for Fosse. In truth, though, it was but a blip in what has been a successful life and career.
Raymond Earl Fosse was born in Marion, Illinois, where he played catcher in high school. He then attended Southern Illinois University, where he became a first-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in the 1965 MLB Amateur Draft.
While Fosse made his major league debut in 1967, he didn’t become a regular Cleveland baseball squad member until 1970. That year, he put up an impressive first half with a .313 batting average and 16 home runs. This led Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver to choose him as a reserve catcher for the American League team at the 1970 All-Star Game.
Fosse found himself on the field at the end of the game. It was the 12th inning, which is insane enough as is. The game was taking place in Cincinnati, and Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose was on base. Jim Hickman of the Chicago Cubs hit a ball to center field, and the Kansas City Royals Amos Otis threw the ball to Fosse at home plate. A reasonable person in an exhibition game would have accepted being tagged out. Rose is many things (though notably not a Hall of Fame member), but reasonable is not one of them.
Rose decided to absolutely light Fosse up at home plate. It was as violent a collision as you’ll see in a baseball game. Fosse dropped the ball, and Rose scored the winning run for the National League. Fosse fractured and separated his shoulder in the collision. Many people were annoyed with Rose, not for the first or last time.
There seems to be a subset of people who believe this ended Fosse’s career. While he did never fully recover from the shoulder injury, that is not the case. Fosse played 42 more games in the 1970 season and ended the year winning the Gold Glove award. Fosse played in 133 games the following season, set a personal best with 62 RBIs, made another All-Star Game and won another Gold Glove.
After one more season with Cleveland, Fosse was traded to the Oakland Athletics. In 1973, his first season with Oakland, he was the starting catcher as the Oakland A’s won the World Series over the New York Mets. Oakland repeated as champions in 1974 by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers. Still, that season Fosse suffered an injury just as severe as the one he picked up from his collision with Rose.
During that 1974 campaign, Fosse was trying to break up a fight between Reggie Jackson and Billy North and got a crushed disc in his neck. That led to three months on the disabled list, and by 1975 he had lost the starting catcher position to Gene Tenace.
At this point, the A’s traded Fosse back to Cleveland, where in 1977, he caught a no-hitter thrown by Dennis Eckersley. Later that season, he was dealt with the Seattle Mariners. In 1978, he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, but he missed the entire season after tripping in a hole on the field and tearing up his knee. While Fosse returned to play in 19 games for the Brewers in 1979, that was it. This was the end of Fosse’s Major League Baseball career.
Ray Fosse Now
Fosse is now 74. He has never really left the world of baseball. He’s been working as a broadcaster on radio and television for the Oakland Athletics since 1986. Fosse is still the primary analyst on TV for the A’s to this day, and he’s won Emmys for his work. He’s also been married to his wife Carol since 1970 and lives in Arizona half the time.
Fosse has thrived since Rose jacked up his shoulder in that All-Star Game collision. He played several more seasons, and he’s been in the booth for over three decades.
However, he’s still in pain from that hit.
“Like a knife sticking me in the shoulder,” Fosse told CBS Sports in 2013. “Because it’s bone on bone. And arthritis, and age, and the whole thing.”
Rose cared so much about winning that All-Star Game, but someday it will just be a run in the box score. And by the way, Carl Yastrzemski was the MVP of that game. Rose doesn’t even have that going for him.
Ray Fosse Cancer
Fosse announced this week that he has been battling cancer for the last 16 years and will step away from his broadcasting duties with the Oakland A’s.
“Given my current medical condition, I am taking a step away from the A’s and NBC Sports California effective immediately, to focus on my treatment and to be with my family during this time,” he said in a statement on the team’s Twitter account.
Ray Fosse has had a wild career journey, and he and his family need support more than ever right now. If anyone is a fighter, it’s him.