If you’re not a big MLB fan, you might have missed that today is a big anniversary. Fifty years ago today, baseball’s all-time hit king, noted gambler and not currently a Hall of Famer, Pete Rose, absolutely destroyed catcher Ray Fosse on a play at the plate. This insane collision came during an All-Star Game, and is the prime example that baseball purists point to about the days “back when the players cared,” although (end-of-column spoiler) the Fosse collision is only the second best that Rose had.
The anniversary got us thinking about some of the most brutal plays at the plate of the years. These plays got so bad that MLB eventually changed the rules about catchers blocking the plate after the 2013 season, requiring the catcher to have the ball before he can block the plate and restricting a runner’s ability to target the catcher on such plays.
Chipper Jones Blows Up Erik Kratz
In a division game coming down the stretch in 2012, the Braves were still fighting for the title, while the Phillies were just playing out the stretch. The meaninglessness of the game didn’t matter to Phillies backup catcher Erik Kratz on this fourth-inning play at the plate. Kratz gets a few feet up the third base line while Chipper steams toward him, then manages to catch the perfect throw from the outfield and take the hit at exactly the same time. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Chipper slams into the 6’4 250 lbs Kratz with a full head of steam and it’s just surprising the impact didn’t create a shock-wave like Thor hitting Captain America’s shield.
Kratz gets fully airborne after contact, I’m not a an expert in physics, but it seems like you’d need a pretty powerful impact to knock a 250-pound guy off his feet and into the air like that. For his part, Chipper delivers the blow and doesn’t even seem to feel it, he just walks to the dugout pissed that Kratz held on.
Scott Cousins Ends Buster Posey’s Season Early
Known in MLB circles as “who?” Scott Cousins was actually an MLB player — briefly an outfielder for the Marlins and Angels. On May 25th, 2011 he was involved in the play he will most definitely be remembered for, destroying Giants’ catcher Buster Posey and putting him out for the rest of the 20111 season. This hit was so bad that it was one of the prime examples of why the rules about blocking the plate were later revised for player safety.
Cousins clearly takes deliberate aim at Posey, there’s no attempt to reach the plate here, just an intent to collide and hope for the best, which Cousins fully admits, telling the Miami Herald “If you go in first feet and slide they punish you. If you hit them, you punish them and you punish yourself, but you have a chance of that ball coming out.”
The hit first looks like a bad head to head, but if you’re not squeamish keep an eye on Posey’s leg, that’s where the damage happens. The catcher suffered a broken fibula and three torn ligaments in his left ankle in the brutal collision.
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Ray Lankford Plays April Games Like October Games
This one is one of the all-time “every game counts” plays in MLB history. In an April 21st game in 1991, the 13th of the year for both teams, the Phillies and Cardinals were tied at six in the bottom of the 10th. With one out in the inning, Ray Lankford draws a walk then steals second, the Phillies walk Felix Jose intentionally to set up the double-play. They get a hot shot to the right side that is fielded well by first baseman John Kruk and whipped to second for the force out, but the shortstop puts the ball in his pocket on the return throw before realizing that Lankford was in the process of rounding third looking to score the winning run. From second. On a ground ball to first. Did I mention this was an April game?
Lankford absolutely lights up Phillies catcher Darren Daulton, who had the throw in plenty of time but drops the ball, allowing the run to score in one of the most badass walk-offs in MLB history as Lankford casually gets up, dusts himself off and celebrates the win while a dazed Daulton can only watch.
Who Sends A.J. Pierzynski From Third On a Pop-up to Left?
Joey Cora, that’s who. Coaching third base for the White Sox in 2006, I’m not sure what Cora was thinking when he sent A.J. Pierzynski home on the tag-up play after this can of corn to left. The throw beats Pierzynski to the plate, but the lumbering 6’3″ 250 lbs catcher didn’t come all this way just to be out at the plate and he obliterates fellow backstop Michael Barrett, who you may remember from his fight with teammate Carlos Zambrano the following year, which we’ve covered previously.
Barrett played at about 185 lbs and gets blasted off his feet but, regardless of size, a catcher willing to have a fistfight with his own pitcher in the dugout during a game isn’t going to take a collision like this lightly. Add in the subsequent show-boating way that Pierzynski emphatically touches the plate and we’re mid-brawl before anyone knows what’s going on.
Barrett pops up as Pierzynski leans a shoulder into him in passing, then Barrett just blasts him with a haymaker that clears both benches, making this one of the best collisions and one of the best brawls in MLB history.
A Collision That Wasn’t
Not all collisions are created equal, sometimes they don’t even have to happen at all to make a list like this. In a 2017 inter-league game the Blue Jays and Cardinals were tied at two in the seventh, when Kevin Pillar tripled into right. Outfielder Chris Coglan flew around third steaming toward the plate. Coghlan appears to be heading right toward boulder of a catcher Yadier Molina, but he makes a last minute decision to rip-off Major League 2, and it becomes an incredible highlight and a great example of why we don’t need the devastating collisions on these plays.
Don’t Get Salty
I can tell u one thing though, Salty is a heavy human.
— 10 (@SimplyAJ10) August 16, 2012
That’s outfielder Adam Jones tweeting after his collision with Red Sox catcher Jared Saltalamacchia in a 2012 game. “Salty” goes 6’4″ 235 while Jones played at around 6’2 215 lbs, so these are both fairly large guys. The thing that really stands out about this one is Jones seeking out the contact. Saltalamacchia isn’t fully blocking the plate and Jones easily could have attempted a slide, but that has its own dangers for the player sliding and Jones must have figured jarring the ball loose was the better approach.
The Granddaddy of Them All
The Pete Rose hit on Ray Fosse that got us here is the best known Rose collision because of the absurd circumstance of doing it in the All-Star Game and what sure looks like some post-contact trash talk, although Rose might have just been making sure Fosse was OK. He wasn’t. Fosse sustained a fractured and separated shoulder that was misdiagnosed for over a year and never healed correctly, but that didn’t stop him from finishing the season hitting .297 and winning a gold glove, because this was the 1970s. I’m surprised they aren’t both smoking cigarettes during this clip.
The Fosse hit wasn’t the best Rose collision though, that one came in the 1980 MLB National League Championship Series. In the tenth inning of a tied game, also known as a situation that does actually matter, Rose barrels around third intent on scoring on a base hit. He’s beaten to by the throw by at least three strides but the catcher has to have one eye on the helmet-less lunatic headed toward him at full speed, and doesn’t come up with the ball. Undaunted, Rose plows into him anyway, just to make his point, and scores the go-ahead run.
If you watch closely in the slow motion clip, just before he decides to collide, you can see Rose actually ball up his left fist in apparent consideration of just knocking the catcher out with an uppercut, I guess? So, kudos to Charlie Hustle for choosing the somehow less violent approach here … even though the catcher didn’t actually have the ball.