Hi all. Here’s the third of 10 All-Star game themes I will be writing. (Update: for 2020, there will be 8, 5 by request.) Lee Larrew of Charleston, SC, a long time friend requested that I profile the 1970 All-Star game, so Lee, here it is by your request.
The American League built a 4–1 lead before giving up 3 in the 9th and a controversial run 3 innings later. The replay of that final play is still shown 50 years later, and the victim-Ray Fosse-has suffered chronic pain from that day to this.
In 1970, Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was newly built. Crosley Field, like Forbes Field in Pittsburgh was obsolete now, and both cities got spanking new parks fit for baseball and football. Neither opened in time for Opening Day, but both new stadia were ready by the end of June. The Reds had two weeks to prepare for the
All-Star game which took place on July 14. If it hadn’t been ready, the Reds wouldn’t have been allowed to play the gracious host. Crosley Field wouldn’t have come close to holding the crowd of nearly 52,000 which crammed Riverfront for the mid-summer classic. For this reason, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn declared the game would be held in Atlanta if Riverfront wasn’t ready, and only declared it to be definitely happening on June 1. Even the new stadium considered the turnout an overflow crowd. Riverfront wouldn’t officially_ be rated for 52,000 until 1984, but during the 1975 World Series, a multitude of nearly 56,000 fans jammed every nook and cranny. The contest was the first All-Star game to be played at night. A year earlier, the first prime time All-Star game was scheduled, but rained out in Washington. The game was played the next afternoon.
NBC still had the rights to the All-Star game as well as the World Series. This arrangement guaranteed the best broadcasters in the game would man the microphones. On Tv, the future Hall of Famer Curt Gowdy, along with Tony Kubek and Mickey Mantle outlined what the country was seeing. On radio, Jim Simpson and Sandy Koufax painted the word picture. They were an odd couple and surprisingly successful at what they did if you consider two factors. Jim Simpson didn’t enjoy baseball while Koufax didn’t enjoy speaking into a microphone for any reason.
If the broadcasters were the best available, the Reds’ choice of which celeb should throw out the first pitch was the worst that could have been made in that place at that time. President Richard Nixon was chosen less than 3 months after telling America that our troops were invading Cambodia. As if that weren’t bad enough, just 4 days later, on May 4, 4 college students were killed with 9 more wounded in a 13-second barrage by Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State, 220 miles from Cincinnati. The students were protesting the invasion of Cambodia, though 2 of the dead weren’t part of the demonstration. Somehow, when the 37th President threw a strike right down the middle, the huge crowd gave him a loud ovation. 50 years later, it seems an unpopular president would be soundly booed if he appeared within shouting distance of such a needless tragedy as the Kent State shootings.
The rosters of both teams were dotted with future Hall of Famers as they would be decades later. 8 of the American Leaguers would find their way to Cooperstown along with 13 from the National League who made it as either players or managers. One of these on the American League side, the Twins’ Rod Carew was injured and unable to play. Two were starting infielders Harmon Killebrew, also of the Twins and the White Sox’ Luis Apparicio who hadn’t been an All-Star since 1963. Two starting outfielders, Carl Yastrzemski and Frank Robinson would also reach the Hall of Fame, as would the AL starting pitcher, Jim Palmer. Brooks Robinson, who would field his way to fame in the upcoming World Series against the Reds was an All-Star benchwarmer. Jim Catfish Hunter, who had thrown a perfect game two seasons before would play in this game on his way to 5 World Series rings and a ticket to Cooperstown. Other American League starters included the Tigers’ Bill Freehan behind the plate, John “Boog” Powell at first and Powell’s Orioles teammate Dave Johnson at second. Johnson would become Davey when he turned to managing. Frank Howard of the Senators was the one starting outfielder who wouldn’t join the Hall of Fame. Two years later, his Senators would become the Texas Rangers. The Indians’ Ray Fosse and Boston’s Jerry Moses were the AL’s two extra catchers though Moses never got into the game. The Angels’ Sandy Alomar (father of Roberto and Sandy JR), Tommy Harper of the Brewers, Angels’ Jim Fregosi and Alex Johnson got into the action. The remaining outfielders were Willie Horton, Tony Oliva, Amos Otis and Roy White, although the Yankees’ single all-star didn’t play. Besides Palmer and Hunter, other American League pitchers on the roster included fellow Orioles Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally. Those two with Palmer and Pat Dobson would be the 4 20-game winners the Orioles would trot out in 1971. No team had 4 20-game winners since the Chicago White Sox of 1917. Astonishingly considering who the manager was, neither Cuellar nor McNally would appear on this night. While they rode the pine, they watched Sam McDowell, Jim Perry, Fritz Peterson, Mel Stottlemyre and Clyde Wright work in their place. Earl Weaver, the Orioles’ stellar manager was the AL Manager as he would be in 1971 and 1972. His Orioles, who had lost to the Mets in 1969 would win in 1970 and lose in 1971. Considering he left such as Cuellar and McNally behind, what happened in the 9th and 12th innings of this game probably surprised few Orioles’ fans.
Across the field, Mets’ manager Gil Hodges got what would be his only chance to manage an All-Star team. A heart attack would claim his life less than 2 years later. His reserve outfielder Roberto Clemente would meet a tragic death 9 months after Hodges. I was a small boy then. The deaths of Hodges and Clemente made me understand that baseball players were men who could die just like anybody else. Clemente was elected to Cooperstown by special election. Starting catcher Johnny Bench had Cooperstown in his future, as did his teammate Tony Perez who was playing third base at this stage of his career. The other 3 infielders were much more ordinary players-the Cubs’ Glenn Beckert and Don Kessinger and the controversial Dick Allen who was a Cardinal at this point in his checkered career. Outfielders Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, both sure-fire Hall of Famers were in the starting lineup alongside Rico Carty, aka “The Beeg Boy” who would be one of the American League’s earliest “designated hitters” when that rule came into play in 1973. 1970 was his only All-Star appearance and was the one time he won the batting title. NL starting pitcher Tom Seaver, along with hurlers Gaylord Perry, Hoyt Wilhelm and Bob Gibson were bound for immortality. Other NL pitchers on that July night in 1970 were the Phillies’ Joe Hoerner, the Reds’ Wayne Simpson and Jim Merritt and the Dodgers’ Claude Osteen. Surprisingly in a 12-inning game, Hoerner, Simpson and Wilhelm weren’t summoned to the hill by Gil Hodges. The managers in 2002 wouldn’t have had a tie through 10 innings if they’d shown his restraint. Hodges’ backup catchers were Dick Dietz and Joe Torre who was a year away from winning his own batting title. Willie McCovey and Joe Morgan were All-Star reserves who with Clemente would be inducted on a hot summer Sunday in the future. Jim Hickman, Denis Menke, Bud Harrelson, Clarence “Cito” Gaston, Pete Rose, Rusty Staub, Billy Grabarkewitz and the injured Felix Millan filled out the NL roster.
The fans had voted in the starters. After a ballot-stuffing scandal in 1957, 1970 was the first year the fans would again get the right to vote. The pitchers and reserves were the choices of the two managers.
Nobody scored in the first 5 innings. In the top of the 6th, Ray fosse singled off his future Indians’ teammate Gaylord Perry, a Giants’ pitcher at this point. Sam McDowell bunted Fosse to second. Yastrzemski singled the run home two batters later. Fosse was part of an AL rally in the 7th. It began with a single off the bat of Brooks Robinson and a walk to Tony Oliva. Dave Johnson singled but nobody scored until Ray Fosse’s scoring fly ball drove in Robinson and made it 2–0 American League. After the 7th-inning stretch, Jim Perry (Gaylord’s brother) came on to pitch for the AL. Trouble followed. The Mets’ shortstop Bud Harrelson singled, after which Gaston walked. Clarence was the Padres’ representative, and as “Cito” would win two World Series managing the Blue Jays. With Harrelson on second and Gaston on first, Menke was hit by a Perry pitch. Harrelson scored when pinch-hitter McCovey hit into a double play. The AL put up a pair in their half of the 8th. Yastrzemsky and Horton both singled with one out. With two out, Brooks Robinson hit a 3-bagger making it 4–1 AL. The AL hadn’t won an All-Star game since 1962, but 3 outs yet to get, it looked like this was their year to break the streak.
Then came the last of the 9th. The American Leaguers had been here before. They had blown a 9th-inning lead and lost an All-Star game in 1961. They had blown a 9th-inning lead in 1964 at another brand new stadium, Shea Stadium in New York. They blew a 9th-inning lead on this night by the dreamy old Ohio river. Catfish Hunter, rather than locking it down, gave up a home run to Dick Dietz. Bud Harrelson and Joe Morgan singled sending Hunter to the showers. Rather than his own world-class lefties, Weaver called on Fritz Peterson to face Willie McCovey. The man Giants’ fans called “Stretch” singled home a run and Clemente tied the game with a scoring fly ball, setting the stage for high drama 3 innings later.
The Angels’ Clyde Wright had gone to the hill in the 11th and gotten the job done. He had two out in the 12th when Pete Rose and Billy Grabarkewitz singled. Leading off second, The Reds’ number 14 was about to make his mark forever, that being Pete Rose. Jim Hickman singled to center field where Amos Otis fielded the ball and fired home. Rose rounded third without a second’s hesitation. The throw from Otis was fielded by Ray Fosse ahead of the incoming Rose. With no regard for the fact that he was playing in a meaningless exhibition game, Rose lowered his shoulder and savagely decked Fosse. He scored the run … and ruined the career of the 23-year-old catcher who hasn’t known a day without pain in the 50 years since July 14, 1970.
The end of this All-Star game was hardly Rose’s last taste of controversy. 3 years later, he would leave a much smaller man, Bud Harrelson of the Mets on the ground. This was in game 3 of the NLCS and Rose’s antics led to a full-fledged riot. With his team needing to win game 4, he hit a home run in the 12th inning the next afternoon. However, nothing Rose could do stopped the Mets reaching the 1973 World Series.
Up to now, as controversial as he was, Pete Rose was still a sure Hall of Famer. He struck 4,256 base hits, passing the misanthropic Ty Cobb for alltime hit leader. Sinister tales about gambling by Rose began to come out at the end of the 1980’s. It would take Rose 15 years to admit his treachery. He had bet on baseball, the one deed above all others that made a man a pariah. Shoeless Joe Jackson isn’t in Cooperstown because of his part in the 1919 Black Sox gambling scandal. The Hall of Fame is dotted with men of questionable character and their sins–even major ones-have been overlooked. Babe Ruth punched an umpire, Ted Williams and Steve Carlton would never win Mr. Congeniality with baseball’s media, and Earl Weaver said some things into a hot microphone that make Lee Elia sound like a choirboy. The Hall of Fame winks about all of these and may or may not allow steroid cheaters; only time will tell. But it has no room at the inn for a gambler from 1919 or 1989.
Cincinnati would host the All-Star game again, at Riverfront in 1988 and at Great American Ballpark 5 years ago.