Ties to Cincy have Torre excited for Classic
MLB's chief baseball officer recalls home-plate collision in '70 All-Star Game
CINCINNATI -- For one of the most iconic moments in All-Star Game history -- Reds great Pete Rose barreling into catcher Ray Fosse to get the National League a win in 1970 -- Joe Torre had both a good view and a unique perspective.
Torre, MLB's chief baseball officer, represented the Cardinals as a catcher for the NL squad, making one of his nine All-Star appearances a player. He was sitting on the bench during the 12th-inning collision at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium.
"You know, it was, 'Ouch, I've been there,'" Torre said. "The fact that we won the game was cool, but … you obviously wanted to check on Ray and see if he was OK. [Fosse] was pretty well dazed. It was a clean hit. Pete didn't go in spikes first. He basically bowled him over. Being a catcher myself, I sort of knew the drill. That's pretty much what you do -- you try to defend your territory. Whether he had the ball or not, you tried to keep the run from scoring. As it turned out, it was devastating. That was the sad part about it."
Of course, 1970 was the dawn of the Big Red Machine era for the club that was led by Sparky Anderson. The Reds went to the postseason in 1970, '72, '73, '75, '76 and '79. They won the World Series in 1975 and '76.
Torre saw the makings of a great team in 1970, when the Reds had players like Rose, Johnny Bench and Dave Concepcion. Others like Joe Morgan, Ken Griffey and George Foster would come later.
"They may not have had the starting pitching that could take you late in the game, but Sparky did a heck of a job with the bullpen," Torre said. "You could see they would be around for a while because they were a young club. It was pretty cool to watch if you were a baseball fan. If you had to play them, it wasn't a lot of fun."
Following his playing career, Torre went on to manage the Mets, Braves, Cardinals and Yankees. The Hall of Fame skipper managed the American League All-Star team on six occasions (1997, '99, 2000, '01, '02 and '04) following World Series appearances with the Yankees.
Torre's wife, Ali, is from Cincinnati, and he has spent a lot of time in the city since the couple first met in 1981. He anticipates this year's All-Star Game, being held at Great American Ball Park, will generate plenty of buzz for the area.
"I think it's exciting," Torre said. "We used to go in there as a ballclub, and you could always sense how important baseball was in that city. I'm really looking forward to this, going there. I'll probably be staying with a relative and enjoying it. There is nothing more festive in that town.
"I know one thing, the town is going to be dressed up, and it's going to be exciting for us at Major League Baseball, and for me, personally, because of the fan stuff."