Apr 4, 2016

Former Italian /American Catcher Turned Broadcaster: Ray Fosse (1969-1979)


Raymond Earl Fosse was born April 4, 1947 in Marion Illinois. The six foot two catcher was the Cleveland Indians first round draft pick (seventh pick overall) in 1965. He has the distinction of being the Indians First ever draftee, since the draft began in 1965. 

In 1966 Fosse batted .302 at A ball Reno getting moved up to AAA Portland the next year. He quickly earned a reputation as an outstanding defensive catcher.

He made his MLB debut on September 8th 1967, catching Sonny Siebert, going 0-3 at the plate. He appeared in seven games as a September call up batting .063. Fosse then spent 1968 back at AAA Portland where he once again hit over .300.

In 1969 he played behind Duke Sims (37 games) for the sixth place Indians but took over the job from Sims, as he would be the Indians full time catcher in 1970. In his impressive rookie year, Fosse won a Gold Glove Award at catcher, batted .307 (7th in the AL) with 18 HRs 17 doubles & a .361 on base %. made the All Star team.

Behind the plate he threw out a league leading 48 base runners caught stealing for a 55% average (second in the AL). He allowed a league leading 17 passed balls with ten errors posting a .989 fielding % (fifth in the AL). Most of the passed ball were to due to pitcher "Sudden" Sam McDowell.

That year Fosse made his first All Star team & it is the game he  is most remembered for. Unfortunately, it was not a positive highlight, although it lives forever in the highlight reels. Fosse was barreled over by Pete Rose on the final play of that 1970 All Star game. The game was held in Cincinnati in the newly opened Riverfront Stadium, which was opened just two weeks prior.

The game was tied in the bottom of the tenth inning when Rose singled with two outs. He advanced to second on a base hit by Billy Grabarkewitz. Chicago Cub (former Met); Jim Hickman singled to left field, the ball was fielded & thrown in by Amos Otis.

As the throw arrived, Fosse stood his ground attempting to tag Rose out. But Old Charley Hustle; Rose, ran right into Fosse at full speed, barreling him down & knocking the ball loose; scoring the winning run. Many people criticized Rose for being so aggressive in an exhibition game, although he claimed he was just trying to win the game. Fosse laid on the ground in pain, suffered a dislocated shoulder and went on the DL. The shoulder was broken but was not diagnosed at the time.



Trivia: Fosse says the night before he & his wife ran into Pete Rose the night before the All Star Game. Rose invited Fosse & his wife to join him & his wife for dinner. Indians pitcher Sam McDowell & his wife were also to join the Rose's. The three couples went to dinner & back to the Rose's home talking baseball until 1:00 AM.

http://m.mlb.com/video/v5766041/rose-crashes-into-fosse-at-the-plate


It was accepted that the injury ruined Fosse’s career but that wasn’t necessarily true, since he did go on to have a successful career. Although he possibly could have gone on to have an exceptional career if not for that injury as well as future injuries. In a strange twist of fate, when Rose was sentenced to prison he was sent to the US penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, the hometown of Ray Fosse.

The next season, (1971) Fosse's average dropped off to a solid .276, with 12 HRs 62 RBIs & he made his second straight All Star team. That year he threw out 40% of runners trying to steal, 38 base runners (second in the AL) as he turned 16 double plays.

In 1972 his numbers fell off again, as he hit .242 with 10 HRs. Over in Oakland the World Champion A's were always having in house drama. Certain players like Mike Epstein & catcher Dave Duncan were outspoken about their owner Charlie Finley.

Finley was a tyrant, if he didn't approve of you, you were gone. This was the case for Epstein & Duncan. In a big off season trade  Oakland sent Dave Duncan & outfielder George Hendrick to the Indians in exchange for Ray Fosse & (future Met) Jack Heidemann.

Reggie Jackson & Ray Fosse Celebrate
For Fosse it was a big uplift, he found himself catching one of baseball's best pitching staff’s, three twenty game winners in Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue & Ken Holtzman. Also one of the games first star relievers & future Hall of Famer; Rollie Fingers.

The A's were now baseball’s best team. For them, it was an improvement at the position, also allowing Gene Tenace to now play full time at first base. Tenace had come out of no where in the '72 Series to develop into a quality slugger.

Fosse responded immediately in Oakland, he caught 141 games (second most in the AL) for “the Swingin’ A’s” throwing out a league leading 52 runners trying to steal for a league leading 56%. At the plate he batted .256 with seven HRs, 52 RBIs & a career high 23 doubles.

Post Season: In the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles he went a dismal 1-11 & then hit only .158 in the World Series against the New York Mets.

Fosse was the catcher behind the plate in the tenth inning of Game #2 in Oakland, who missed putting the tag on Bud Harrelson who was trying to score on a sac fly. Harrelson got the out call from home plate umpire Augie Donatelli who had fallen down on the floor & was unable to view the tag. Fosse bluffed & raised his arm in a cheer, as Willie Mays dropped to his knees arguing the botched call in the wild extra inning game at Oakland.

In 1974 Fosse attempted to break up a locker room brawl between A's outfielders Reggie Jackson & Billy North. This was another legendary story of the three time World Championship ball club & their notorious for in house fighting. Fosse suffering a crushed disk in his neck trying to stop the fight. He was placed on the DL for three months & this injury added to the shortening of his career. He only hit .196 on the season with four HRs 8 doubles & 23 RBIs.

Post Season: He was ready & healthy for October. Fosse had a good post season, winning his second straight World Series in Oakland. He hit two HRs that post season getting six hits in 26 at bats.

The first HR came in Game #2 of the ALCS off the Baltimore Orioles pitcher; Dave McNally. The other came in the final Game of the five game World Series win over the Los Angeles Dodger. Fosse's HR came off future Hall of Famer; Don Sutton.

In 1975 he was limited to 82 games batting just .140 with no HRs. As the A’s slowly began to break up their Dynasty in the wake of free agency, Fosse’s contract was sold back to the Cleveland Indians for 1976. There he shared time with a young Alan Ashby, batting a career high .301, playing in 90 games with two HRs nine doubles & 30 RBIs.

On May 30th 1977, he was behind the plate to catch Dennis Ekersley’s 1-0 no hitter against the California Angels. The only run of the game came when Jim Norris layed down a sac bunt & Duane Kuiper scored from third base. In 78 games Fosse hit .265 but he was sent to the expansion Seattle Mariners that September. He played in just 11 games for the Mariners in their inaugural season. He ended his playing career in Milwaukee the next year (1979) playing in just 19 games.

Fosse finished his twelve year career with a .985 fielding percentage, throwing out 42% of would be base stealers 251 of 619. He hit .256 with 758 hits 61 HRs 117 doubles a .306 on base % & 324 RBIs in 924 games played.

Retirement: Fosse has been a popular broadcaster for the Oakland A’s since 1986 . He has been at celebrations honoring the A's 1972, 1973 & 1974 World Championship teams with his old team mates.

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