All-Time Indians: Ray Fosse

Name: Raymond Earl Fosse     Position: Catcher      
Nick Name: Ray           Number: 8        
Tribe Time: 1967-72, 1976-77   DOB: 04/04/1947      
Accolades: 2 Time All-Star (1970-71), Gold Glove (1970-71), Top 23 MVP 1970  
Stats G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG OPS
Best Season (1970) 120 450 62 138 17 1 18 61 39 55 1 5 .361 .469 .307 .830
Career 600 2039 219 549 77 5 50 230 155 243 12 14 .323 .385 .269 .708

The tale of Ray Fosse is one of the most disappointing in an Indians history full of tragedy, but there are a lot of positives to get to first. In 1970, after three seasons playing a limited role, Fosse took over the Indians starting catchers role from Duke Sims. In that year, he had one of the best rookie campaigns ever by an Indians catcher with 18 home runs and 61 RBI while batting over .300. Fosse was great on both sides of the ball and won a Gold Glove in his rookie year, mostly for throwing out 55% of opposing base runners in addition to three pick-offs. Fosse was also selected as a reserve to the All-Star Game that season, an honor that would hurt him for the rest of his life.

In what may have been the most infamous play in All-Star game history, Fosse's chances at a Hall of Fame career were bowled over by an overzealous Pete Rose. In the 12th inning with the game on the line, Fosse was blocking the plate while waiting for the throw. In an exhibition game, Rose crashed into Fosse before the ball reached him and separated his shoulder. Fosse played through the injury for the rest of the season, but hit just two more home runs after smashing 16 in the first half.

Fosse continued playing with an injured shoulder straight through 1971 and made it to his second All-Star game while securing his second Gold Glove as well. The pain and lack of mobility in his shoulder hurt him at the plate however and his numbers continually dwindled over the years. No longer a .300 hitter, he dropped to .276 in 1971 and .241 the following season. The Indians had seen enough to know that Fosse was never going to regain his rookie glory and sent him packing after the 1972 season to Oakland for his new replacement Dave Duncan and a starting center fielder in George Hendrick. 

For a moment, it seemed as if Fosse's luck had turned around. The A's were essentially at the beginning of a dynasty and Fosse was entered in as the starting catcher and was able to bump his average back over .250 while knocking in 52 runs. He won the World Series in each of his first two seasons with the Athletics and made it to the ALCS in the first three.

By 1974, his injuries finally fully caught up to him and he batted under .200 for two straight seasons. This struggle made him available and the Indians were able to purchase him back from the Athletics prior to the 1976 season. He had a resurgence of sorts, splitting time with Alan Ashby and batting .300 again for the final time in his career. His power was long gone however, and his time in Cleveland was short. This time, he was traded to a different AL West team, the Seattle Mariners for Bill Laxton towards the end of 1977. He played just 30 more games in his career before finally calling it quits in 1979, ending a sad career that could have been so much more. 

Fosse's injury should never have happened in an exhibition game and never would have in today's age, where there is no blitzing in the Pro Bowl and the air around the All-Star game is more relaxed. In addition, had the injury occurred in today's game with the current state of sports medicine, it would have been immediately diagnosed and treated. While he would have likely missed more time during 1970, it would likely have saved the power lost from an abused shoulder.

After retiring, Fosse went back to Oakland in 1986 to become an announcer and has remained there ever since, currently serving as the color commentator for A's games on CSN California. Not just a great defensive catcher and still one of the greatest in Indians history, Fosse was nominated for the Frick Award in 2002, given annually to the best announcer in baseball. 

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians.

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