Monday, April 21, 2014

The Most Memorable All-Star Games--1970-1979

In 1970,  the All-Star Game was still just an exhibition and there was little at stake aside from bragging rights. But the fiercely competitive Pete Rose showed the great lengths he would go to in order to win. With two outs and the game tied at 4 in the bottom of the twelfth inning, Rose lined a single to center and moved to second base on a Billy Grabarkewitz single. Jim Hickman then dropped another hit in front of AL center fielder Amos Otis. Otis unleashed an accurate throw to the plate as catcher Ray Fosse came up the line to receive it. Rose laid a vicious shoulder block on Fosse, literally knocking the Indians' catcher senseless. Fosse was unable to complete the play and Rose ended up scoring the winning run. Whether or not Rose used excessive force has remained a source of lively debate ever since. The impact of the collision separated Fosse's shoulder, but the area was so swollen that X-Rays apparently didn't reveal it. He kept playing anyway, aggravating the injury and weakening his swing. By 1974, his days as a first-string catcher were over. Years later, Rose joked insensitively that if it weren't for him, no one would even know who Ray Fosse was.

By 1971, fans were back in control of the All-Star voting for the first time since the Cincinnati faithful had over-stuffed the ballot box in 1957. Before the game, Dock Ellis created a stir when he insinuated that NL skipper Sparky Anderson was a racist. After Vida Blue had been selected to start for the AL, Ellis commented that: "They wouldn't pitch two brothers against each other." Ellis was quite a free-spirit during his career. In 1970, he had pitched a no-hitter under the influence of LSD. He would later gripe about the size of his hotel bed in San Francisco during the '71 NL playoffs and refuse to sleep in it. Ellis's comments before the '71 All-Star Game were rendered pointless when Sparky Anderson penciled the right-hander in as the National League's starting pitcher. It was a rough day at the office for the outspoken hurler. In the bottom of the third, with the NL leading 3-0, Ellis gave up a leadoff single to Luis Aparicio. A's slugger Reggie Jackson was then installed as a pinch-hitter for Vida Blue. In a tremendous display of power, Jackson launched a titanic shot into a light tower on the roof of Tiger Stadium. By many estimates, the ball traveled 520 feet, making it the longest homer in All-Star history. "That ball really took off and I thought it was going to knock the light tower down," said Johnny Bench after the game. After Reggie's dramatic shot, the trouble continued for the loud-mouthed Ellis as Rod Carew drew a walk and Frank Robinson drilled another homer to deep right field. Ellis was charged with the loss as the AL prevailed, 6-4.

The 1979 Midsummer Classic featured several interesting precedents. It was the only All-Star Game played at the Kingdome in Seattle. It was also the first and only All-Star start for Nolan Ryan--a surprising fact considering his impressive career resume. Additionally, Pete Rose played four innings at first base, becoming the only player in history to appear at five different positions in All-Star play. The game was close with the lead changing hands several times. In the bottom of the eighth, right fielder Dave Parker made a tremendous throw to the plate to nail Angels' catcher Brian Downing, who was trying to score from second base on a Graig Nettles single. Downing dove head-first into the plate but was tagged out by Gary Carter. Parker had two outfield assists in the game and was named MVP. In the top of the ninth, the NL plated what would hold up as the winning run on a bases loaded walk by Ron Guidry. The Yankee southpaw had come on in relief of Jim Kern, who had walked the bases full. The American League finished the decade of the 1970s with just one All-Star win.    

1 comment:

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