Russell and Duenes

Out If You Don’t Slide at Home Plate

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I’ve been enjoying Kostya Kennedy’s book on Pete Rose, and of course, no book on Rose would be complete without going into detail about one of the most famous plays in baseball history. In the 1970 All-Star game, in Cincinnati no less, Rose came around from second base in the bottom of the 12th inning on a single by the Cubs’ Jim Hickman. Expecting nothing less from Rose, he barreled around third and proceeded to lay the wood to the AL catcher, Ray Fosse, in a bang-bang play at the plate. Fosse was hurled end-over-end, and baseball fans have been engaging in lively discussions about the virtuosity, or lack thereof, of the play ever since.

 

No baseball fan can deny that it is an adrenaline rush just to watch the play, even now, even knowing the outcome. Kennedy does a great job of describing what it was like for the players who were watching it live. I agree with his conclusion that there has likely never been another All-Star game, before or since, that seemed to matter more to those playing in it. As an NL guy, I don’t mind seeing the AL lose an All-Star game, but I have never been a fan of what Rose did that night. And Kennedy is again right, at least in my case, that my ill-will toward Rose for lowering the boom on Fosse probably has more to do with Rose, as a person, than what Rose actually did. Had it been Tony Perez making that play, I probably would feel differently. That’s just reality.

Yet virtually all of the discussion around that play at the plate has been confined to the question of whether Rose, in an “exhibition game,” should have simply chosen to slide. Kennedy thinks not, and it is indeed hard to imagine Rose doing anything other than what he did . . . unless the rules said he had to. And in my book, that’s the ultimate issue. That day, and every day in baseball since – from pee wee league up to the pros -it should have been taken out of the runner’s hands. The rules of baseball should just simply say: “You slide at home plate, or you’re out. You bowl over the catcher by running over him in any manner or form resembling Dick Butkus knocking some poor running back on his butt, and you’re not only out, you’re fined and suspended at least two games.” I’d put that right in there as Rule 10.3(a). If the catcher is illegally blocking the plate, as Fosse appears to have been, than you give the bag to the runner attempting to slide (very easy to do nowadays with instant replay).

It’s not football. It should never be played like football. A catcher in particular, who is typically looking out into the outfield and has his ribs and midsection vulnerably exposed, should never have to face being run over by the likes of Pete Rose (meaning, Pete Rose was built to put a guy on his ear), or any other player. It’s just not necessary, and it should be taken out of the players’ hands. Not an option.

There, I feel better now.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

August 2, 2014 at 12:21 pm

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