Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July 14, 1970: Too much Hustle?

CINCINNATI - The ball was hit up the middle, a two-out single by journeyman Cubs outfielder Jim Hickman, who was playing in his only All-Star Game. Amos Otis of Kansas City, one of the spark plugs of the great Royals teams of the 70s, came up firing. Otis threw the ball to Oakland catcher Ray Fosse on the third-base side of home plate, in plenty of time to get Cincinnati outfielder Pete Rose, who had been running from second base. The ball got there in plenty of time, beating Rose by a couple of steps.

Freeze it here. In most situations, the inning would be over. The All-Star Game, which was already quite memorable due to the National League's three-run rally to tie the game in the 9th, would continue on to the 13th inning. Sure, Rose could have found a way to slide around Fosse, or maybe stop short and try to create chaos in a rundown, but more than likely, he's out, and we're continuing on. The other option, running over the catcher, seems completely improbable, considering this is, after all, an exhibition.

Of course, Rose bowled over Fosse. Fosse hit the ground hard, the ball came out, Rose landed on home plate, and the NL had won. Despite the game, it shouldn't have been too surprising that Rose did that; he didn't get the nickname "Charlie Hustle" for nothing. But come on - it was an exhibition game. Yah, everybody wanted badly to win, but not at the expense of your opponents' health. That seems like it was going too far. Even people playing in the game believed that.

As for the aftershocks, just ask Fosse. He was the one, after all, who suffered a fractured and separated shoulder in the collision. The original x-rays didn't reveal the injuries at first, so Fosse played the next month or so in pain, causing further, irreparable damage to his shoulder, before finally being properly diagnosed. By then it was too late. His career was never the same. Interviewed in 1999, Fosse demonstrated that he still couldn't lift his left arm as a result of the injury.

So was it worth it? Did the satisfaction of getting the win outweigh the shame of permantely injuring a player? If you are asking that question, than you don't really know Rose. To him, there was no such thing as an exhibition game. There was simply a baseball game. In fact, when he was asked about it, he gave this answer:

"I didn't realize it had turned to girl's softball between third base and home plate."

Kind of sums up his personality perfectly.

No comments:

Post a Comment