#CardCorner: 1992 Donruss Tony Fossas
But once Fossas arrived at the game’s top level, he carved out a niche role that made him one of the busiest pitchers of the 1990s.
Born Sept. 23, 1957, in Havana, Fossas and his family fled to the United States when he was 10 years old. They settled in Boston, where Fossas became a star pitcher for St. Mary’s High School.
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Fossas wanted to pitch for a warm-weather college, but had only offers for northern schools and a potential free agent deal with the Red Sox.
“One night at six o’clock I was almost in tears,” Fossas told the Associated Press. “I locked myself in the bathroom that day and put the toilet seat down. I knelt down so nobody could see me and I prayed to God.”
A few hours later, University of South Florida coach Jack Butterfield called Fossas and offered him a scholarship.
“The school cannot afford you,” Fossas recalled Butterfield telling him, “but I have made arrangements with George Steinbrenner. He’s going to donate the money for you to go to school.”
Fossas blossomed at South Florida when Hall of Famer Robin Roberts took over the program. In 1978, scouts began to take notice of the 6-foot left-hander – and he was selected by the Twins in the ninth round of the 1978 MLB Draft.
“I was in the Cape Cod Summer League when Roberts called me from California,” Fossas told the Asheville Citizen-Times. “I don’t know how he found out, but he heard I was going to sign with the Twins. I decided, after talking to him, to go back to school my senior year and get my degree.”
But after bringing Fossas to Spring Training in 1999, the Rangers informed him that he would not make the team and released him. The Yankees brought Fossas in for a look-see, signing and releasing him within a week before bringing him back on a minor league deal two days after cutting him.
He appeared in five games for the Yankees in May, recording three outs while allowing four earned runs. The Yankees designated him for assignment on May 20 – and after appearing in 26 games for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate that summer, Fossas never pitched in organized ball again.
For his career, Fossas was 17-24 with seven saves and a 3.90 ERA. He worked 415.2 innings over 567 games. Among all big league pitchers with at least 500 appearances, only Randy Choate and Ray King worked fewer innings.
He limited lefties to a .214 career batting average with a .301 slugging percentage.
“A lot of left-handers come and go,” Fossas told the Hartford Courant after the Yankees released him in 1999. “But when you have to go into Yankee Stadium, when you have to face Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill in the eighth inning and there are 40,000 people going crazy, you have to have a cold heart.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum