Sam Rice (Trading Card DB)

Sam Rice

This article was written by Stephen Able

Sam Rice (Trading Card DB)Sam Rice broke into the major leagues in August of 1915 as a 25-year-old pitcher with the Washington Nationals. After moving to the outfield midway through the following season, he became one of the leading hitters in the American League. Over the course of a 20-year career, most of which he spent in Washington, Rice achieved a .322 lifetime batting average and fell just 13 shy of 3000 total base hits. He missed the .300 mark in batting only five times (and only twice during his 15 seasons as an everyday regular), and never by more than seven points. He stroked 200 or more hits in a season six times, including 207 in 1930, when, at the age of 40, he posted an average of .349, a single point shy of his career best. Despite his obvious proficiency, consistency and durability from the plate, he was long known best for a single play he made in the field, and the decades-long controversy that followed it. More recently, memories of his baseball accomplishments have been upstaged by revelations of a long-forgotten family tragedy that occurred years before he first donned a major league uniform.

Edgar Charles Rice (he did not become known as “Sam” until his mid-twenties) was born on February 20, 1890 in Morocco, Indiana, a small town in rural Newton County in the northwestern part of the state. His parents, Charles Rice and the former Louise Christine Newmyre, were of agrarian stock and subsequently moved to a farm outside the small village of Donovan, Illinois in Iroquois county, just across the Indiana-Illinois state line a short distance from Morocco. Three more children, all girls, were born to Charles and Louise following the birth of Edgar–Mabel, in 1892; Bernadine, in 1903; and Genevieve, in 1909. [1]

While growing up, Rice attended Rhode Island Country School, where, many years afterwards, he was remembered by a former classmate as a “nice fellow and a good athlete” and as “an exceptionally fast runner.” [2] On September 17, 1908, the 18-year-old Rice married 16-year-old Beulah Stam of nearby Iroquois Township and together they took up residence in Watseka, a few miles southwest of Donovan. Sam and Beulah had two children, Bernie, born in 1909, and Ethel, born in 1911. [3]

Following his wedding, Rice worked on the family farm during the week, and sometimes found time to play baseball on the weekend. Rice himself, in a 1920 interview with Baseball Magazine, claimed that he did not play a great deal of organized baseball during his younger days–“no more than a few games” [4] — but Frank Butzow, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who interviewed a number of Watseka residents in 1925, reported that Rice was known to have played sandlot ball in the area as a member of the Watseka Pastimes, a well known local semi-pro team. Butzow further reported, however, that Rice, despite several years of trying, failed to attain a spot as a regular on the squad, squaring, perhaps, these seemingly disparate recollections. [5]

Whether he played a lot or a little or was a success or not on the diamonds of Watseka, Rice signed a contract in October of 1911 with the Galesburg Pavers of the Class D Central Association. [6] He made the 150 mile trek across state the next April in hopes of securing a spot on a professional baseball team for the 1912 season.

Rice and the other new Paver recruits reported to Galesburg’s Illinois Park on Thursday, April 11 for their first practice. Two days later they met the local Knox College nine in a pre-season tune up game, during which Rice made his professional pitching debut. [7] In all, Rice made four pre-season appearances for the Pavers, two against the local college boys, and two against the nearby Central Association rival Monmouth Browns. [8] His performance in these contests led a local reporter to pronounce Rice “one of the most promising of [Galesburg manager] Ducky Ebert’s recruit pitchers.” [9] The most promising of his pre-season outings occurred on April 21 in a Sunday afternoon encounter with the Browns. Rice gave up a run on one hit and two walks while striking out four in three innings of work, helping the Pavers to an eventual 6-1 victory. [10] Unfortunately, any celebration that might have accompanied either his team’s win or his own improving pro prospects was quickly curtailed.

While Rice was away in Galesburg, his wife and children moved in with his parents on the family farm in Donovan. On Sunday, April 21, as Rice took to the mound in Galesburg, his family took to the road to visit friends in his wife’s hometown of Iroquois. Shortly after the family returned from their outing that evening, a violent tornado ripped through Donovan. The high winds destroyed the Rice farmhouse and killed Rice’s wife, both of his children, his mother, and his youngest two sisters. According to a report published in the Kentland Democrat a few days later, “… the house, with contents, and everything else on the premises … was seized, torn, and whirled into fragments and strewn entirely across the farm. … [family members’] … bodies were found … 150 [to] 400 yards south of where the house was … all nearly entirely naked, the clothing having been whipped into shreds and torn away by the wind.” His father survived the storm, but was seriously injured. “When neighbors came upon the scene, they found Mr. Rice running distractedly about among his dead dear ones in the ravine, and carrying in his arms one of the children that yet showed evidence of life, but died a few moments later.”[11] All told, the storm left over 70 dead and as many as 200 injured while destroying over $1,000,000 in property as it thundered along a line beginning southwest of Donovan in Illinois, through Rice’s birthplace of Morocco in Indiana, and to points beyond. [12]

Rice was notified of the tragedy by telegraph the next morning [13] and immediately set out for home. He arrived in time for his mother’s and sisters’ funerals on April 23 and for those of his wife and children the day after, at services reportedly attended by “thousands” of mourners. [14] He stayed with his father afterward, helping care for him at the neighboring farmhouse where he had been taken after the storm. The elder Rice succumbed to his injuries shortly thereafter, however, dying on April 30. [15]

Word of the Midwestern storm and its toll on life, limb, and property traveled from coast to coast, spread widely by the national wire services, appearing in news reports from Boston in the east to Los Angeles in the west, and in many of the major cities in between. [16] Accounts of the storm’s particularly tragic impact on the Rice family were not limited to local Iroquois and Newton county papers, but appeared in reports across the state in Galesburg, and upstate in Chicago, as well. [17] Despite its widespread newsworthiness, the tragic tale was seldom repeated in later years as Rice gained prominence in the sports world, nor in the years that followed his retirement from baseball. The event, at least as it pertained to the baseball player Sam Rice, was largely, if not completely forgotten until nearly a decade after his death over 60 years later.

Rice returned to the Pavers shortly after his father’s passing, but did not remain with the team for long. Back in uniform on May 5, [18] he entered his first (and only) regular season contest for Galesburg on May 9, giving up a run on four hits in two-and-a-third innings of relief in a game ultimately lost by the Pavers to the Burlington Pathfinders, 5-4. When the final Galesburg roster of 13 players for the 1912 season was delivered to Central Association officials the next day, Rice’s name was not included. [19]

Rice reportedly spent the rest of 1912 wandering across the Midwest, taking on a series of labor-intensive jobs. [20] His wandering ceased on January 24, 1913, however, when he enlisted in the Navy. [21] He was assigned to the USS New Hampshire, a battleship in the Atlantic fleet that was docked in Norfolk, Virginia, as a “coal passer”, a rank equivalent to Fireman 3rd class. [22]

Rice and his shipmates spent the early part of 1913 training at the Hampton Roads naval base in Virginia and conducting shipboard exercises in the coastal waters along the Atlantic seaboard. [23] During the latter part of the year, they trained at Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba and patrolled parts of the Gulf of Mexico. [24]

During this time athletics, especially baseball, were a popular form of recreation and amusement among enlisted men and officers of the US Navy. Most of the larger naval ships of the fleet fielded baseball teams that competed against one another and against civilian ball clubs while their ships were in port. The base at Guantanamo also housed top-notch athletic facilities, and baseball games were common. [25] Rice landed a spot on the USS New Hampshire’s baseball team and was back in action on the diamond within a few weeks of his enlistment. He played in a number of games around Norfolk and other U.S. ports during that spring and summer and at Guantanamo later that winter. [26]

The fun and games for Rice and his shipmates came to a screeching halt in the spring of 1914. Relations between the U.S. and Mexico had taken a sharp turn for the worse in February of that year, when General Victoriano Huerta seized power in his country by having U.S. supported Mexican President Francisco Madero assassinated. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson refused to recognize Huerta’s new Mexican government, and hard feelings between the two nations intensified in April as the result of several incidents involving the arrest and detention of U.S. servicemen by Huerta-backed military forces in the Mexican gulf port of Tampico. General Huerta subsequently refused President Wilson’s demand to raise a U.S. flag and fire a 21-gun salute as a form of apology for his country’s belligerent actions, further irritating U.S. government officials. When rumors surfaced that a German shipment of arms was on its way to Huerta’s forces in Vera Cruz, President Wilson made the decision to dispatch naval forces to the Gulf of Mexico and seize the port. [27]

On April 14, the New Hampshire and other ships from the Atlantic Fleet were ordered to embark for Vera Cruz. Marines and “bluecoats” (Navy seamen) from the battleships Utah, Florida, and Arkansas, which were among the first wave of ships to arrive at Vera Cruz, formed a landing party and entered the city before noon on April 21 (a year to-the-day after the Rice family tragedy). By evening, the landing forces had seized several government facilities and neutralized formal opposition, but continued to receive gun-fire from guerilla forces within the city. The New Hampshire and a number of other ships of the fleet, including the battleships Vermont, South Carolina, and Michigan, arrived later that night. Early the next morning Rice and other seamen from this second wave of U.S. warships were ordered to land and join in the fray. Mexican resistance to this escalation of the U.S. intervention proved to be greater than anticipated. [28] “It was an exciting day we put in there” recalled Rice. “Mexicans were sniping at us from the roofs of the houses … It was a queer sound to have the bullets humming around and every once in a while spatting near you”. [29]

Within a few days, lingering Mexican opposition was subdued and U.S. forces took complete control of the city. Several hundred Mexican troops were killed during the action, while official government reports listed total U.S. casualties at 19 men killed (15 navy personnel and four marines) and 75 wounded. Three of deceased seamen were from the New Hampshire. [30]

Rice and the rest of the landing force remained ashore until April 30, when U.S. Army forces took over occupation of the city from the Navy and Marines. Amidst great ceremony, Rice and his companions returned to their ships, where they continued to patrol the waters of the Gulf until ordered home a few weeks later. [31] On June 21, the USS New Hampshire departed gulf waters, bound for Norfolk, where it was scheduled for overhaul later that month. [32]

Following several weeks in port, Rice and his shipmates were granted furloughs. While ashore, Rice caught on as a right-handed pitcher and part time left-handed hitting outfielder with the Petersburg Goobers, a Class C Virginia State League entry. He signed with the team on July 29 and pitched in relief the same day. [33] In his first outing, against Norfolk, he entered a tie game, with two on and one out in the eighth inning. While not giving up a hit in the inning and two-thirds he pitched, a fielding mishap against the first batter he faced allowed the winning run to score for the opposition. In his second outing, a start against Roanoke in the first game of a doubleheader on August 3, he held a lead entering the fifth inning, but left after one was out, having given up four runs on seven hits, three walks and a hit batsmen. This game, too, was eventually lost by the Goobers. [34]

His fortunes improved, however, in the second game of the doubleheader played later that day. Starting for the second time in just a few hours, Rice pitched nine complete innings and gave up only two runs on seven hits and two walks to earn his first professional victory. He aided his own cause by going 2-for-4 at the plate as well. [35] He followed by winning his next four starts, all complete games, in which he gave up 1, 0, 1 and 4 runs, respectively, before losing a 4-2 encounter with Richmond on August 23. [36]

This encouraging start clearly impressed the squad’s owner, Dr. D.H Leigh, who sought and received Virginia Senators Thomas S. Martin and Claude A. Swanson’s assistance in arranging for the purchase of Rice’s discharge from the navy, allowing him to remain with the team to season’s end. [37] Rice ultimately appeared in 15 games for the Goobers in 1914, recording nine wins against two losses, the best winning percentage of any Virginia League hurler that season [38]. He gave up 73 hits and 38 walks in 123 innings, while striking out 62 (just over one every two innings). He also accumulated 71 at bats, augmenting the plate appearances he garnered while on the mound with a few pinch hitting appearances and several stints in the outfield, posting a .310 batting average for the season. [39]

His 1914 performance plus several quality innings pitched against the New York Yankees in an exhibition game won by the Goobers in early April produced high hopes for Rice entering the 1915 season. [40] According to a local beat writer for the team, “Rice the ex-navy man … looks to be the pure goods this season, and [Manager] Heine [Busch] has lofty hopes for this youngster. Rice is doomed to go higher.” [41] He appeared ready to fulfill these lofty expectations early on, starting and winning the team’s season-opener against eventual Virginia League champion Rocky Mount and following with two more victories as the Petersburg squad got out of the gate quickly, racing to a 7-1 start. [42] Things turned south in a hurry for the Goobers after that, however. Fading to a 25-31 next-to-last-place record as the first half of the season ended, [43] the team began the second half even more slowly, languishing in last place with a 9-15 won-loss record as of July 27. [44] Petersburg was struggling at the gate as well on the field, and rumors had begun circulating that the team was on the verge of folding. [45]

At this point in the season, Rice had appeared in 29 games, winning 11 of 23 decisions for a team providing little in the way of offensive support. [46] He had accumulated 233 innings (just over 8 per outing) and had given up 175 hits and 43 walks while striking out 153 (almost one every inning and a half). Rice continued to pinch hit and accumulate playing time in the outfield in addition to his mound duties, recording a .301 batting average in 156 at bats. [47]

Late in July, Clark Griffith, part-owner and manager of the American League’s Washington Nationals, contacted Goober owner Leigh regarding repayment of a loan of several hundred dollars that he had arranged to enable the financially strapped Virginia League organization to make payroll earlier in the season. [48] Short of cash, Leigh suggested that Griffith take his star player, Rice, in return for waving the debt. Griffith accepted the offer. [49] The deal was finalized on July 28, shortly after Rice had made his final appearance in a Goober uniform – not as a pitcher, but as a pinch hitter and late inning center field replacement. [50] Shortly after his departure, the Goobers did indeed fold, with the league operating the franchise as an orphan team playing only road games the remainder of the season. [51]

Rice arrived in Washington on July 29 and was in a Nationals’ uniform the next day. [52] It was around this time that Rice is reported to have picked up the nickname “Sam”. While there are many different stories of exactly how this came about, most include an interaction between Clark Griffith and the Washington sporting press in one form or another. According to the most frequently told version of this tale, Griffith couldn’t (or simply didn’t) provide Rice’s first name to a reporter gathering information for an early dispatch regarding the new Washington acquisition. In filing his story, the reporter, on his own (or at Griffith’s suggestion) used the name “Sam” as filler until he could unearth the rookie’s true given name. [53] While an entertaining story, oft-told in one form or another by Rice and Griffith as well as others, it does not stand up to scrutiny, as perusal of local Petersburg papers reveals that the first public reference to Rice as “Sam” occurred in a Goober game account a full week before his sale to the Washington club. [54] Regardless of exactly how or when the new moniker was first used, Rice apparently liked it and the new name stuck. He continued to use it as his own for the rest of his life, although he usually acknowledged its artificial nature by enclosing “Sam” in quotes when signing the name. [55]

“Sam” Rice entered his first major league game barely a week after joining the Washington club, relieving Jim Shaw (who had previously relieved Bert Gallia) in a 6-2 Nationals loss to the Chicago White Sox on August 7. Rice acquitted himself well in his initial big league appearance, giving up a single, no walks, and one unearned run during the one and two-thirds innings he pitched. [56] According to the next day’s Washington Post, he displayed “a good motion and seemed to have plenty of stuff”. [57]

In his second major league outing, on August 10, Rice set the Detroit Tigers down in order in two more innings of relief. According to the Washington Post, Rice looked good against the Tigers. “He got Ty Cobb on a sickly fly to left, fanned Sam Crawford and Bobby Veach, and caused George Burns to foul out. Any time a pitcher can dispose of this quartet so easily, he must have something other than a glove and a pleasant smile.” [58]

Rice followed his two successful relief appearances with a start on September 7, pitching a complete game against the Philadelphia Athletics in which he recorded his only win as a major league pitcher. He gave up two runs on five hits and four walks against the A’s, [59] then made one more start on September 11 [60] , finishing his first major league season with a 2.00 earned run average while giving up 13 hits and walking 9 in 18 innings of work. In addition, he went 3 for 8 from the plate, including 3 for 4 in his final two games. All his hits were singles. [61]

While working to hone his pitching skills in pre-season training camp the following spring, Rice continued to impress with his bat as well as his arm. According to Stanley Milliken of the Washington Post “Sam Rice is one of the best hitting pitchers on the team. In fact, outside of Walter Johnson, no one compares with him. He stands up to the plate well, and meets the ball hard. We would not be at all surprised if but Griffith would use him for a pinch hitter against right-handers this year.” [62] As time would eventually tell, Milliken knew of what he spoke.

Rice began his second major league season in the Nationals’ bullpen, where he remained until taking the mound for the first time during the 1916 season on May 29, when he gave up two runs on four hits and two walks in a lengthy six and two-thirds innings relief stint versus Philadelphia [63]. This was followed by another inning of relief the next day in which he retired three Boston Red Sox batters in order. [64] His next outing did not prove nearly so successful as those that had come before, however.

On June 4, he entered a tie game with the Tigers in the bottom of the ninth inning at Navin Field in Detroit. Rice retired the leadoff hitter on a lazy fly to centerfielder Clyde Milan, then coaxed the next hitter into a routine grounder to the right side of the infield. Unfortunately, the Nationals’ second baseman Eddie Foster booted the ball, allowing Tiger pinch hitter Marty Kavanagh to reach first base safely. Rice then faced pitcher Hooks Dauss, who had entered the game in relief in the top of the inning. Dauss, though a typically weak hitting pitcher, slammed a long drive over the drawn-in Milan’s head, scoring Kavanagh with the winning run in the only loss credited to Rice during his short major league pitching career. [65]

Dauss’ blow is frequently cited as having abruptly ended Rice’s role as a major league pitcher. Rice himself is quoted as saying “the hit for three bases by Dauss shaped my career. As the winning run went over the plate, I decided my days as a pitcher were ended … I sought Manager Griffith. ‘I am an outfielder or nothing after today’ was my greeting. He tried to argue me out of my decision, but to no avail. I never pitched another ball as a big leaguer”. [66]

While another entertaining story, it too fails to ring entirely true. In fact, Rice did pitch again, making three more appearances from the mound after his disappointing encounter with Dauss and the Tigers. The first, on June 21, was a three-up three-down inning of relief against Philadelphia that was washed out by rain. The second, on June 22, proved to be the final start of his career. He pitched six and two-thirds innings, again against the A’s, recording a hard luck no-decision in a Washington loss. Finally, on July 5, he absorbed a drubbing in 8-innings of mop-up relief against the Yankees. [67]

Rice’s struggles from the mound gave Griffith food for thought and he began to experiment with Rice as a pinch hitter. After several unsuccessful efforts, [68] he hit safely in two of three pinch-hitting appearances between July 11 and July 15. [69] He followed with a pinch-hit double on July 17 against Cleveland, then remained in the game to play right field, recording another hit later in the game. His only out on the day was a scorching line drive grabbed by Indian second-baseman Bill Wambsganss, robbing him, according to game-day press accounts, of a “sure extra base hit”. [70] It was shortly after this game that Griffith announced Rice would become a full-time outfielder for the Nationals, officially ending his short major league pitching career. [71]

Rice did not really “fail” in his attempt to become a major league pitcher. His performance from the mound during the 1915 and 1916 seasons was respectable and showed promise — he split two decisions while recording an ERA of 2.52 (versus a league norm of 2.90 during the same period) in 39 1/3 innings of work. He regressed somewhat from his inaugural season to the next, but not necessarily as a result of control problems, as has sometimes been suggested. [72] Rice averaged one walk every 2.13 innings in 1916, certainly not a great performance, but no worse than in 1915, when he walked one batter every 2.00 innings. Over the same period, however, his strikeout ratio fell, from one every 2 innings in 1915 to one every 7 innings the year after. With his declining ability to register strikeouts came an increase in the number of hits against him (from .72 per inning in 1915 to .86 in 1916) and an accompanying rise in his ERA, from 2.00 to 2.95 (still only a little worse than the league average of 2.80 for 1916).

Rice himself blamed the decline in his pitching performance in 1916 on an injury sustained during the spring. “We were training in Charlottesville and working out in the gymnasium. I slipped and fell, striking on the point of my right shoulder. My pitching arm seemed to go dead. I hoped it would get in shape, but it didn’t seem to. The soreness went away, but I was no longer able to put any stuff on the ball.” [73] Regardless of the reason for his apparent decline in pitching prowess, and regardless of the viability of his prospects as a big league pitcher, Rice’s obvious talents as a hitter and the Nationals’ pressing need for an increase in offensive firepower made his transfer from the slab to the batters box appear highly logical. [74]

Rice quickly made Griffith’s decision to convert him to an everyday player look brilliant, going two-for-two with a double in his first appearance in the starting lineup on July 19, four-for-eight in a double-header two days later, and four-for-five in a game on July 22. As Rice prepared to go on the road to Detroit again, his batting average for the season had reached its apex near the .450 mark. [75]

Away from home, Rice’s bat began to cool — he hit less than .200 from the last week of July through the third week of August, lowering his average to around .280 — but his hold on the team’s starting right field spot remained secure. [76] On August 22, however, he left the line-up with a high fever that forced him to his bed for several days. He had reportedly been suffering from “malaria-like symptoms” — head-aches and chills — for several weeks prior, which may have contributed to his August batting slump. [77] He sat out the next three weeks, not returning to the line-up until September 14, when he stroked a pinch hit single against the White Sox. The following day Griffith announced that Rice would probably not return as a regular for the remainder of the 1916 season. He’d seen enough to know what Rice could do and wanted to take a look at some other prospects as the season wound down. [78]

Griffith’s announcement proved premature, however, as Rice again reentered the starting line-up a week later, singling, doubling and tripling in four at bats [79]. He remained in the line-up for the remainder of the season, averaging .363 in 55 at bats following his return from “sick-leave”, which elevated his batting average to .299 at season’s end. [80] It was one of only five times in his 20-year career that he didn’t hit over .300, falling short by the slimmest of margins.

Rice picked up where he left off during his first full season in the starting line-up the following year, playing in 155 of the Nationals’ 157 games and hitting .302 for the season. While displaying little in the way of home-run power, he utilized his speed to garner 25 doubles, 7 triples, and score 77 runs. His fielding was reported to have improved and he stole 35 bases as well. At this point, Rice was widely viewed, particularly among Nationals fans and the Washington press, as a budding new star. [81] Unfortunately, Rice’s baseball career was sidetracked once again the following year, this time by the United States entry into World War I.

Rice, along with other U.S. males between the ages of 21 and 31 at the time, had been required to register with their local draft boards on June 5, 1917. [82] By early 1918, though he had yet to be called for duty, Rice was relatively sure he soon would be. He considered enlisting in the Navy so that he could take advantage of his prior service in that branch of the armed forces to rejoin as a non-commissioned officer, but claimed his interview with the naval recruiter at the Great Lakes Training Station north of Chicago did not go well, and so decided to take his chances in the draft. [83]

He arrived at Augusta, Georgia, where the Nationals had moved their spring training activities for 1918, on March 19, and announced he would stay with the team until called for military duty. [84] Shortly thereafter he received word that he would be among the next group of new recruits called from his home county in Illinois. He left the spring training site immediately and traveled to Watseka, hoping to convince his local draft board to view his prior naval service as sufficient grounds to delay reporting for military duty until the fall, so that he could play out the 1918 baseball season. [85] Griffith and Nationals fans shared this hope, but to no avail. He, along with others in his draft class from Chicago and other parts of northern Illinois were called and reported for duty during the first week of April. [86]

That Rice’s star had clearly risen among the Nationals’ following was confirmed by the hyperbole with which the local Washington press reacted to news of his induction. A reporter from the Washington Post stated that “the heavy hitting outfielder’s loss is one of the hardest blows that has struck any major league club”, while manager Griffith added that “if Rice hadn’t been called, we would have given the best club in the league a real fight.” [87] The Nationals, without Rice, ultimately finished third in the American League pennant race, only four games behind the champion Red Sox.

Rice and a number of other Illinois recruits were deployed to Fort Terry on Plum Island, just off the tip of Long Island, New York, where they formed a detachment of the 68th Coast Artillery. [88] Rice took advantage of his east coast training location to get in a little baseball before heading overseas. Twice granted furloughs, once for a weekend in May, and again for the better part of a week in mid-June, Rice was able to join the Nationals and play in seven games — two against the Red Sox (in Boston), three against the Yankees (in New York), and two against the Philadelphia Athletics (in Washington DC). Despite having been away from the game since early March, Rice went 8 for 23 during his abbreviated 1918 season, including 5 for 8 in the last two of these seven games. [89]

Rice and the rest of the 68th Coast Artillery shipped out for France in late July aboard the British merchant ship Leicestershire. [90] Following an uneventful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, the regiment reached the Tilbury Docks, a few miles south of London, in mid-August. After spending a few days at a rest camp, they were shipped across the English Channel to the French port of Le Havre on August 30, then transported to Libourne, southeast of Paris, for additional training prior to entering combat. The armistice was signed on November 11, however, ending the war before Rice and his outfit saw any action.

He and the rest of his unit lingered in the French countryside for a couple of months after the war ended, awaiting transport home. The wait ended on February 3, 1919, when his regiment boarded the SS Matsonia bound for the states. The voyage home proved more harrowing than the war itself for Rice and his companions, as the Matsonia was buffeted by 85 mile an hour gale winds for three consecutive days on its way across the Atlantic. Rice and the others on board were allotted two meals a day, but some claimed that they really had four — “two down and two up.”

The Matsonia reached New York Harbor safely on February 15. The men were transported first to Camp Mills, then to Fort Wadsworth, on Staten Island, in preparation for demobilization. On February 25 the Illinois detachment departed by rail for Chicago, and arrived at Camp Grant in Rockford on February 27, where, a few days later, Rice received his discharge. [91] On the evening of March 22, Rice arrived at the Nationals’ spring training facility in Augusta, ready to pursue the remainder of his baseball career without further interruption. [92]

Upon his return from the war, Rice set about firmly establishing himself as one of the stars of the American League. During the five-year period from 1919 to 1923, he played between 141 and 154 games a season, averaged .320 with 33 doubles and 12 triples per year from the left side of the plate, usually hitting from the number three or four spot in the lineup. In 1922, he led the league in at-bats, one of three times he did so during his career, with 633. While displaying virtually no home run power, he stroked enough doubles and triples to elevate his slugging percentage from .369 during his only full season before the leaving for Europe (1917), to .436 during the five year period that followed his return (1919-23), reaching a high of .467 in 1921. He recorded the first of his six 200+ hit seasons in 1920, with 211, when he also stole a career high 63 bases, leading the league and earning the nickname “Man-o-War” after the champion racehorse of the era. [93] He recorded the first of five 100+ run seasons, with 117, in 1923, stroking a career high, league-leading 18 triples that season as well.

His fielding, which was viewed as a liability when he was first shifted from the mound to the outfield, improved to the point that he was moved to center field for most of the 1920-1922 seasons. In 1920, he set what was at the time the record for most successfully handled fielding chances by an outfielder, with 478. [94]

While the period from 1919 to 1923 was one of great individual accomplishment for Rice, it was not one of rousing success for the team. The Nationals franchise, a charter member of the American League, struggled mightily throughout the first decade of its existence, finishing last in the American League in 4 out of the 7 years between 1903 and 1909, and never higher than sixth in any of its first 11 seasons (1901-1911). The club had shown improvement during the early days of Clark Griffith’s tutelage, however. Griffith, who had taken over managerial reigns of the club in 1912, led the team to a series of first division finishes over the next four years, including runner up to the league champion in both 1912 and 1913. But the Nationals’ fortunes faded again thereafter, and the club finished seventh in 1919 and sixth in both 1920 and 1922. It finished in the first division twice during this period, but only barely, rising to fourth in both 1921 and 1923.

Entering the 1924 season, there were but two members of the Nationals squad with whom Rice had been teammates since his rookie season in 1915. The first, legendary Walter Johnson, had joined the Nationals prior to the beginning of the Griffith era, in 1907. The other was Joe Judge, a powerful hitting first baseman acquired from Buffalo the same year that Rice joined the squad. Judge and Rice played together as Nationals for 18 consecutive seasons, a teammate longevity record they held until it was tied by George Brett and Frank White of the Kansas City Royals in 1990, and passed by Allen Trammel and Lou Whitaker of the Detroit Tigers in 1995. [95]

Besides Johnson, Judge, and Rice, the bulk of the Nationals’ squad that took the field in 1924 was brought together by Griffith between 1919 and 1923. Bucky Harris was purchased from Buffalo in 1919 and took over at second base. In 1924, the youthful Harris, age 27, took over as manager as well, becoming the fourth Washington helmsman in the four years following the end of Griffith’s own managerial reign in 1920. Tom Zachary, a pitcher, was also acquired in 1919, following his rookie season in the majors with the Philadelphia Athletics. Goose Goslin was obtained from Columbia of the Sally League in 1921, taking over in left field, and George Mogridge, a 32 year old pitching veteran of 8 seasons with the Yankees and White Sox, was acquired the same year. Ossie Bluege was obtained from Peoria in the Three-I League and took over at third base in 1922, while Roger Peckinpaugh, another New York Yankee veteran, was acquired to man the shortstop position the same year. Muddy Ruel, yet another New York Yankee (and Boston Red Sox) vet, was acquired through a trade prior to the 1923 season taking over the club’s catching duties. Finally, Firpo Marberry, who was to become one of the first successful relief pitching specialists, was also acquired prior to the 1923 season, from Little Rock of the Southern Association. [96]

Many of these players had relatively long careers with the Nationals and Rice formed lasting friendships that carried over into his retirement days with several of them. In addition to the 18 years Rice spent as a teammate of Joe Judge, he completed 12 seasons along side Walter Johnson, 12 with Ossie Bluege, 11 with Goose Goslin, 10 with Bucky Harris, and 8 with Muddy Ruel.

As the 1924 season opened, the Nationals were not highly regarded, and the New York Yankees were favored to win their fourth consecutive American League crown. [97]The Nationals surprised the pundits, however, finishing the campaign in first place, two games ahead of the Yankees. Rice, at 34 years of age, provided a significant contribution to the team’s success, moving to the leadoff slot in the lineup for much of the season [98] and batting .334, with 39 doubles, 14 triples, 24 stolen bases, and 106 runs scored on the season. Underdogs to John McGraw‘s New York Giants in the World Series, [99] the Washington squad again surprised, winning the fall classic in seven games. The series was an exciting, back-and-forth affair that was not settled until the Nationals broke a 3-3 tie in the 12th inning of the 7th game, allowing the aging Walter Johnson, who pitched the game’s last four innings in relief, to record his first World Series victory. [100]

Rice slumped at the plate during the series, batting only .207, but contributed to the Nationals’ cause with strong play in the field, particularly in Game 6, when he made 3 spectacular running catches in support of the 2-1 Washington victory that forced the series to its ultimate 7th game. According to Bucky Harris, “Twice Sam Rice made plays which saved the game. He turned in his first brilliant feat in the opening inning … Irish Meusel hit one that seemed ticketed for the temporary bleachers. Back and back, Rice ran. He reached out his gloved hand while going at top speed along the low rail and picked the ball out of the stands. This cut off a home run and two tallies… Rice saved another run in the third inning. He took Freddie Lindstrom‘s drive to right while on the dead run. Frisch doubled after this and but for the catch would have scored the young Giant third baseman. He made another wonderful running catch of Art Nehf‘s short fly in the fifth. I doubt if there ever will be a greater series of plays by an outfielder in a single game.” [101] John McGraw echoed Harris’ accolades as well. “Rice is a great ball player, make no mistake about that. His defensive work has pulled the Nationals out of several tight places in this series.” [102] Good as it was, his 1924 World Series fielding display was but a preview of what was to come the following year.

Favored to repeat as American League champions again in 1925, [103] the Nationals did not disappoint, finishing 8½ games ahead of the second place A’s. Rice, at the age of 35, had probably his best offensive season, reaching career highs in hits (227), batting average (.350) and RBI’s (87). The Nationals entered the 1925 World Series as favorites over the National League Pirates, [104] but became the first team to lose a post-season classic after leading three games to one. Rice had a sterling series at the plate, batting .364, scoring five runs and driving in three. His 12 hits (all singles) tied a World Series mark that was not surpassed until 1964, when Bobby Richardson of the Yankees managed a 13-hit series (a record since tied by Lou Brock in 1968 and Marty Barrett in 1986). These impressive offensive feats were overshadowed, however, by one of the most highly regarded fielding plays ever made in World Series competition.

Game 3 of the 1925 series was played in Washington amidst cold and windy conditions before a crowd of 36,495 that included U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife, many other national dignitaries, and Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The demand for seats was so large that temporary stands were erected in right field, separated from the field of play by a four-foot tall wooden fence. The Nationals had taken the lead at 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning of a hard fought battle between the two clubs. Starting the eighth, Ed McNeely, who had entered the game as a pinch runner the inning before, took over defensively in center field, which moved Rice, who had begun the game in center, to right. Firpo Marberry replaced starter Alex Ferguson on the mound and opened the inning by striking out the first two Pirates he faced. The next batter, catcher Earl Smith, drove Marberry’s two-ball, two-strike offering hard towards the temporary seats in right center. Rice sprinted toward the ball, leaped short of the fence and made a backhand grab, tumbling head over heels into the stands immediately after the catch. He did not emerge until a few seconds later, clutching the ball overhead in his gloved hand. Umpire Charlie (Cy) Rigler, who had raced to the fence from his position at second base, signaled Smith out. An intense rhubarb followed. Pittsburgh Manager Bill McKechnie, owner Barney Dreyfuss (who leaped onto the field from his seat in the stands), and a host of Pirate players raced across the field to claim that Rice had not held on to the ball after falling into the stands. The four umpires conferred, satisfied themselves that Rice had made a legal catch, and confirmed Rigler’s ruling that Smith was out. The Nationals held their lead in the ninth and took a 2-1 game lead in the series. [105]

But the matter was not closed. After the game, a pair of Pirate fans came to McKechnie in the visitor’s clubhouse, claiming they had seen, and were prepared to sign sworn affidavits to the fact that Rice had lost control of the ball after entering the stands. Armed with this information, McKechnie sought out Judge Landis and asked if it would be possible to file a formal protest of the umpire’s decision. Landis informed McKechnie that no appeal could be made of an umpire’s judgment, and the matter was officially closed. [106]

Rice himself, when interviewed immediately after the game, claimed that after he caught the ball he slammed into a spectator while falling into the stands and was temporarily stunned, which caused his delay in returning to the field of play. [107] He was later summoned to a meeting with Landis, who reportedly asked, “Sam, did you catch that ball?” to which Rice reportedly replied, “Judge, the umpire said I did.” Landis is said to have then paused briefly before finishing the conversation with “Sam, let’s leave it that way.” [108] Rice gleefully complied with Landis’ directive. For years, even after he retired, Rice was repeatedly pressed to reveal to the public whether or not he had truly caught Smith’s drive. He always refused to do so, taking, it seemed, no small pleasure in protecting his secret. Whenever asked “did you catch that ball” he would simply respond “the umpire said I did.” [109]

Regardless of whether he held on to the ball after tumbling into the stands or not, the initial grab must have been something to see. Goose Goslin described it as the “best catch I ever saw”, while Roger Peckinpaugh went Goose one better, saying that ” a better catch than Rice made has yet to be seen in our ballpark.” Stuffy McInnis of the Pirates called it “one of the best pieces of work ever accomplished in a World Series,” while Bucky Harris went so far as to suggest that it might very well have been the “best catch ever made in baseball”. [110] Memories of the catch have stood the test of time, as the play remains one of the more honored in World Series fielding history. [111]

After another typically strong performance in 1926, Rice, at the age of 37, appeared to have begun showing signs of decline during the 1927 season. He started slowly at the plate and his batting average hovered around the .200 mark well into July. Even after he had again begun to hit, he was criticized in the press for poor play in the field — he was accused of covering less ground than in the past and of becoming “fence shy” — and equally poor base running. [112] Manager Bucky Harris seemed to concur, stating that the prospects for Rice holding on to his starting position in 1928 “were not very bright.” [113] There were even rumors that Griffith was shopping him around for a possible trade after the season. [114] However, as his performance over the next few years would suggest, Rice’s downward slide in 1927 was more likely caused by problems with his health than with his age. He had begun the season suffering from headaches and eye problems, which at the time were diagnosed as being caused by a sinus condition. [115] Other early season health problems have also been identified as possibly having hindered his performance. [116] Regardless of the reason for his first half difficulties, there is no doubting the improvement he displayed over the second half of the season, which resulted in a more Sam Rice-like batting average of .297, complete with 33 doubles and 98 runs scored, at season’s end.

Despite his turnaround during the latter half of 1927, Rice began spring training in 1928 with the understanding that he would have to compete for his old right field spot with a number of youngsters. [117] A lengthy string of prospects — including such “household names” as Sam West, Ollie Tucker, Foster Ganzel, and Jack Kloza — were mentioned as possible successors. [118] When the season began, however, Sam was in his familiar spot in the lineup, playing 148 games and again recording more than 200 hits (202) while batting well over .300 (.328) for the season.

Rice had to battle for his position again during spring training in 1929. This time, he lost the battle and began the season on the bench. Starting in right field instead was Emile “Red” Barnes, who had joined the team late in 1928 and generated impressive offensive numbers and showed good glove work in the field. He did not, however, live up to his advance billing, and Rice returned to the every day lineup only five games into the season, [119] eventually playing in 150 games and just barely missing the 200 hit mark while averaging .323 at the plate.

Having reestablished himself as a cornerstone of the Nationals’ attack, he outdid himself in 1930, at the ripe old age of 40. Playing in 147 games, Rice accumulated 207 hits, becoming, and remaining to this day, the oldest player to reach 200 hits in a season. He also batted .349, recorded the highest on-base-percentage of his career at .407 and scored a career high of 121 runs. He currently has the second highest batting average (behind Ty Cobb) and most at bats, runs scored, runs created, hits, singles, doubles, triples, and sacrifice hits of any major leaguer playing in their 40th year.

While concerns about his age had been premature, eventual decline was inevitable. Following one final strong year as a starter in 1931, Rice again began the season on the bench in 1932, as Carl Reynolds was acquired to man Rice’s familiar right field spot. Reynolds was injured in a fight following a collision with Bill Dickey of the Yankees on July 4, however, opening the door for additional playing time for Rice. [119] He accumulated 323 plate appearances in just over 100 games during the season, averaging.323 in the most limited role that he had played in Nationals’ fortunes since his early days as a young pitcher. [120]

Prior to the 1933 season, there were rumors that Rice was a top candidate (his good friend Joe Judge was reportedly another) to be the successor to Walter Johnson, who had been dismissed in the off-season after four years as the Nationals manager. Instead, the position was given to young shortstop Joe Cronin. [121] The season was doubly tough on Rice, as the disappointment of not being named the Nationals skipper was coupled with his finally being forced to the bench for good, as former Washington star Goose Goslin, who had been traded away to the St. Louis Browns in 1930, was reacquired and installed in Rice’s old spot in right field. Rice played in 73 games in 1933 (only 39 in the field) while accumulating but 85 at bats, many of which (27) were in a pinch hitting role. [122]

With Rice playing a supporting role, the Nationals returned to the American League throne in 1933, providing the aging hero with another shot at post-season action. The World Series turned out to be just another grand disappointment for Rice, however, as the Nationals lost to the Giants in 5 games and his only series appearance was as a pinch hitter in Game 2. He made the most of this limited opportunity, stroking a single in a 6-1 Nationals loss. But facing a do-or-die situation in the bottom of the ninth inning of game 4, Rice was passed over by manager Cronin, who inserted another, less experienced player, Cliff Bolton, as a pinch hitter instead. Bolton lined into a game-ending, and, for all intents and purposes, series-ending double play. [123]

Rice did not make an appearance in any of what turned out to be his last three games in a Nationals uniform, as he was released by Washington on January 8, 1934. [124] Not quite ready to throw in the towel, he signed to play for his former teammate and manager, Walter Johnson, who had taken over as manager of the Cleveland club following his dismissal as field general of the Nationals prior to the 1933 season. Rice appeared in 97 games for the Indians in 1934, 78 of those in the field. After struggling through August with a batting average below .200 for the month, and limited to a handful of pinch hitting appearances over the first two weeks of September, Rice decided to call it quits. [125] On September 18, with 10 games left in the season, he closed his 20 year career in style, going three-for-five in the second game of a double-header with his old club, the Washington Nationals. He finished the year batting .293, the lowest average he ever posted at the professional level.

Rice stood 5′ 9″ tall, threw right handed and batted left, and played most of his career at a weight of around 150 pounds. [126] He did not make his major league debut until the age of 25, yet managed to log 20 seasons in the “bigs”. He took to the field an average of almost 150 times a season from age 27 in 1917 to age 40 in 1930, and played a total of 2404 regular season and 15 World Series games.

He retired just 13 hits shy of 3000 for his career, posting a lifetime batting average of .322, and an on-base-percentage of .374, in 10,251 regular season plate appearances. While he never led the league in hitting, he was among the top 10 eight times. He seldom struck out, averaging only once every 33 or so at bats and three times managed consecutive game hitting streaks of 28 or more games — 29 in 1920, 31 in 1924, and 28, at the age of 40, in 1930. He still shares the all-time American League lead (with Joe Jackson) for most consecutive multi-hit games, 11, which he accomplished during the 1925 season. [127]

He offset his lack of long-ball power with great speed and base-running savvy. In some circles, he was regarded as the most effective base runner in the American League, after Ty Cobb. [128] Of his pittance of 34 home runs, 18 were inside the park, and he remains number 14 all-time in career triples. His speed aided his hitting in other ways as well, with many of his singles resulting from bunts and infield grounders. He also stole a total of 351 bases, averaging 25 a year between 1917 and 1930, with a high of 63 in 1920. He stole home 12 times, the last in 1932, at the age of 42. [129]

He was also considered an outstanding fielder for most of his career, based in large part on his speed afoot and his strong throwing arm. His career fielding statistics (a .965 fielding percentage and range factor of 2.23) are little different than the American League average for outfielders during the period, but his many memorable catches, particularly those in the 1924 and 1925 World Series, fueled his reputation as a master of the “outer garden”.

Once his baseball career had ended, Rice and his wife of 14 years retired to a farm in Ashton, Maryland. Rice had re-married on October 23, 1920, wedding the former Miss Edith Owen of Indianapolis in a small ceremony in Alexandria, Virginia. [130] Edith maintained a relatively low profile as Sam’s wife during his playing days, and the couple continued to live quietly after his retirement, [131] as Rice raised chickens and bred racing pigeons. Over the years, “Sam Rice’s Poultry Farm” grew into a large and elaborate operation, and the prowess of his racing pigeons was well known. [132]

While the Rice’s sold their chicken farm in 1945, Sam continued to breed and race pigeons well into the 1950s. [133] He also dabbled in real estate, which led to the building of Sam Rice Manor, an 80-unit housing development, on a portion of his farmland near Ashton during the 1950s. [134] “Sam was always a good businessman” stated one local scribe. “He has done very well in several enterprises.” [135]

Besides tending to his business ventures, Rice spent much of his free time after retirement on the golf course. He had been an avid and accomplished golfer for many years and was known as one of the best of the many professional baseball players who took to the links during their playing days. [136] He was frequently found golfing in the Washington area during the season, in California, Florida, and other warm weather spots during winters between seasons, and on courses in Hot Springs, Arkansas and at the various Nationals training sites during the spring. He played competitively in many amateur tournaments and recreationally with teammates, opposing ball players, and other friends. [137] Golf continued to hold a strong attraction for Rice after his retirement. A member of Indian Springs Country Club during his playing days, he became a member of Manor Country Club in Rockville, Maryland after retiring, which, due to its proximity to his home in Ashton, provided him with readily accessible playing facilities. He continued to play competitively — and successfully — into his seventies and beyond. [138]

Rice also found time to devote to the game in which he’d made his name, participating in baseball and softball contests in support of local charitable and fraternal organizations, playing in old-timers games with other retired professionals, and promoting youth sports in the D.C. area. [139] He also maintained close contact with many of his old teammates and coaches, particularly Clark Griffith, Nick Altrock, Walter Johnson, Joe Judge, Ossie Bluege, and Bucky Harris, all of whom continued to live in and around the Washington area. Several even became Rice’s “neighbors” after they retired – Johnson and Bluege, like Rice, bought farms outside of D.C. in the nearby Maryland countryside, while Judge settled in Chevy Chase. [140] Sadly, as the years passed, more and more of the “old gang’s” gatherings were devoted to paying respects to one of their own or to some other old teammate who had passed away. Rice attended numerous funerals in the Washington D.C. area over the years, including those of Eddie Foster in 1937, Ray Morgan in 1940, Walter Johnson in 1946, Clark Griffith in 1955, Jim Shaw, the pitcher who Rice replaced on the mound in his major league debut, in 1962, Joe Judge in 1963, and Nick Altrock in 1965. [141]

Rice also lost his wife of 37 years, as Edith passed away in November of 1957. [142] He subsequently remarried, taking as his third bride the former Mary Kendall Adams, at a ceremony conducted in Olney, Maryland on July 4, 1959. [143] Sam and Mary, the widow of Herbert H. Adams for over ten years, along with her teenage daughter Chris, continued to live in Ashton following the wedding. [144]

Rice’s life after baseball was active, personally and socially productive, and, to all appearances, quite satisfying. As he entered his 70’s, the only thing missing was a plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame, publicly acknowledging him as one of the game’s historical greats. Between 1936, when voting began, and 1942, many of the game’s most widely acknowledged greats were voted into the Hall by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) – Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Rice’s long-time teammate, Walter Johnson in 1936, Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, and Cy Young in 1937, Pete Alexander in 1938, George Sisler, Eddie Collins, and Willie Keeler in 1939 and Rogers Hornsby in 1942. During this time, Sam Rice received but a single vote for the Hall, that in 1938. [145]

Rice did not receive another vote until 1948, then three more in 1949 and one each in the years 1950, 1951 and 1952. By this time, the BBWAA had elected a total of 26 players to the Hall, while a Veterans Committee had added another 24 (plus 12 others designated as “pioneers/executive” or manager). Rice’s negligible vote total in the face of the growing roster of Hall of Fame inductees was criticized by some in the sporting press, who began an informal campaign to drum up support for his election. [146] Still, it took another decade and a change in the rules associated with the election process to get Sam into the Hall. His selection, by the Veterans Committee, was finally announced early in 1963. [147]

His selection was popular at the time it was announced, and, unlike some who have gained admittance after public campaigning in the press, his selection has not often been questioned by students of Hall of Fame meritocracy. While few claim that Rice belongs with “the cream of the crop” of those with Hall of Fame plaques, not many have disputed the legitimacy of his inclusion. He stacks up as “average or better” among all Hall of Famers on most recognized quantitative standards. [148]

Following his own induction, Rice became a regular at Hall of Fame sponsored events and activities [149]. He and his wife regularly made the late summer trip to Cooperstown for the annual induction ceremonies, missing the occasion only twice in the 12 years between his own enshrinement and his death. [150] His last trip to Cooperstown was for the induction of Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Jim Bottomley, Jocko Conlan, Sam Thompson, and Cool Papa Bell in 1974. [151]

Sam was not well when he attended the 1974 induction ceremonies, and his health declined rapidly after his return home. [152] He was admitted to Montgomery County Hospital in Maryland for treatment of cancer in September, and moved to a nursing home in nearby Rossmoor a few weeks later. There he passed away on October 13, 1974, at the age of 84. [153] A memorial service was held on October 16 at St John’s Episcopal Church in Olney, after which he was buried in Woodside Cemetery in Brinlow, Maryland, just a mile up the road from Ashton. [154]

Rice’s death stimulated the usual spate of articles in the sporting press reflecting upon his accomplishments and career highlights. In particular, it stimulated renewed interest in, and discussion of, his famous catch in the 1925 World Series. Following election to the Hall of Fame in 1963, Rice had been inundated with appeals to tell the “true” story behind the catch. He continued to refuse to make any public proclamation regarding the issue, but, in July of 1965, he responded to these requests for “closure”, particularly those made by Lee Allen, prominent Hall of Fame historian, and of Paul Kerr, Hall of Fame Museum president, by writing a letter detailing the facts (as he claimed to see them) associated with the catch. He sealed the letter and gave it to Kerr with instructions not to open it until after his death. [155] Shortly after Rice’s funeral, a search of the files at the Hall of Fame, where it was thought that Allen, who had since passed away himself, had stored it, did not produce the sorely sought after document, and many feared the letter had been lost. It surfaced shortly thereafter, however, still in the possession of Paul Kerr, who was apparently unaware the search was underway. The letter was eventually opened and its contents revealed in early November at a press conference held in Kerr’s Wall Street office. [156] According to the letter written by Sam:

“… the ball was a line drive headed for the bleachers towards right center, I turned slightly to my right and had the ball in view all the way, going at top speed and about 15 feet from bleachers jumped as high as I could and back handed and the ball hit the center of the pocket in glove (I had a death grip on it). I hit the ground about five feet from a barrier about four feet high in front of bleachers with all my brakes on but couldn’t stop so I tried to jump it to land in the crowd but my feet hit the barrier about a foot from top and I toppled over on my stomach into first row of bleachers, I hit my Adam’s apple on something which sort of knocked me out for a few seconds but McNeeley arrived about that time and grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me out. I remember trotting back towards the infield still carry in the ball for about halfway and then tossed it towards the pitcher’s mound. (How I have wished many times I had kept it.) At no time did I lose possession of the ball.” [157]

Though many viewed Sam’s letter as the last word on the topic, some did not, and a touch of mystery still remains. For example, Ossie Bluege, shortly after Rice’s death, but before the contents of the letter were revealed, was quoted as saying that Rice had told him at a recent gathering in Cooperstown that he in fact did NOT hold on to the ball. [158] More intriguing still were the contents of a letter sent to Kerr shortly after Rice’s letter was made public by a Mr. Norman Budesheim, public utilities consultant and avowed Washington fan from Maryland, who claimed to have been seated in the first row of the temporary bleachers in Griffith Stadium during the third game of the 1925 World Series. His description of the events of that day mirrors that provided by Rice in many ways, but diverges on one particular point.

“Sam at great speed broke for the ball to his left … and hurtled the barrier … hitting it with the ball definitely in his outstretched glove. I had braced myself.. for the impact which was really something. I caught Sam full across the chest and arms .. when Sam went out of the park .. he had the ball in his glove definitely. However, upon hitting us, he definitely dropped the ball … he rolled off our laps and was flat on the ground in the tight space between our legs and feet and the barrier, he and I frantically trying to get the ball — me to give it to him and he to get it himself naturally. My friend and I were both bending over him with our bodies shielding him from the view of everyone … in the park including umpires, players and spectators… Sam beat me to the ball but we both heaved him over the barrier on to the field….When Sam says ‘at no time did I lose possession of the ball’ he is generally and literally correct in that I never got it and he had it under control so to speak and not necessarily in his glove without interruption. [159]

It is not hard to imagine that his particular choice of words — “at no time did I lose possession of the ball” — was intended to circumvent the truth and perpetuate the veil of secrecy surrounding the mystical catch, thus giving Rice the last laugh in his prolonged quest to keep the secret.

A second “revelation” regarding Sam’s past that appeared after his death was no such laughing matter. While the “secret” associated with his famous catch in the fall of 1925 was playfully guarded by Rice amidst much public fanfare over the years, the “secret” he guarded from the public surrounding the catastrophe that befell his family in the spring of 1912 was deathly serious and reflective of a strong desire by Rice to guard his and his family’s privacy.

While the storms that wreaked havoc in April of 1912 were a local sensation and generated substantial national interest at the time they occurred, the Rice family tragedy that accompanied them received almost no public mention within the sporting press after Sam Rice burst upon the American League scene. Much of the information that was conveyed to the public about Rice during his career was drawn from the interview he did with Baseball Magazine in 1920, in which Rice made no mention of the tragedy (or even of his brief stint with the Galesburg ball club that followed). Rice began his recollections of the days before his big-league career with his decision to join the navy in 1913, and the impact that decision had on his subsequent baseball career, but made mention of little that came before. [160]

Of Rice’s many early Boswells, it appears that only Frank Butzow, who usually confined his writing to commentary regarding Illinois state legislative affairs, mentioned the incident all, and then only briefly in a column he wrote for the Chicago Tribune in 1925 [161]. None of the sportswriters that followed Rice’s career and wrote of his early years – Frank Young, Dan Daniel, Shirley Povich, Bob Addie, Lee Allen, etc. – ever mentioned this chapter of Rice’s life, at least not prior to 1984. Not when national interest in Sam peaked after the 1925 World Series, nor when he left the Nationals in 1933. Not when he retired from baseball in 1934, nor when he gained entry into the Hall of Fame in 1963, nor even when he passed away in 1974.

It was not until research by Newton County Enterprise reporter John Yost for an article on long-lost local hero Rice led to the discovery of contemporary accounts of the storm and its impact on the Rice family that the story first became known to the baseball world. [162] Yost’s findings were initially shared only with the local readers of his 1984 Newton County Enterprise article, but soon gained broader exposure, first, through an article written by Shirley Povich that was published in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post in 1985, and subsequently through an article written by Steve Wulf that appeared in Sports Illustrated in 1993. [163] As a result of these reports, the tragic events that preceded his emergence as a big league ball-player are now common knowledge to anyone familiar with Sam Rice.

In sum, Rice was a relatively private, but readily approachable man. He was not particularly colorful on the field, but was highly personable off it; he was humble, yet proud. He accumulated an impressive array of offensive statistics and produced a highlight-film reel full of plays in the field over the course of his 20 year career, yet many of those that saw him play remembered him for much more than anything his numbers or awards could convey. Most notably, Rice was a “throwback”, a dead ball style player competing mostly in the live ball era, an early example of what in current lingo would be labeled “old school”.

Shirley Povich, one of Rice’s most long standing and ardent admirers, recalled “the pure classicism of [his] ability on the ball field. His smooth, level batting stroke, his ability to hit the ball to any field and his complete assurance as he stood at bat … [were in] … thrilling contrast to the brute-like approach of the home-run hitters whose chief talents were in their muscles. … [He] was the popular conception of what a big leaguer should look like, how he should knock the dirt from his spikes, step into the batter’s box… watch the near-strikes go by … and whip his bat into the pitch he did like.” [164]

In a nutshell, Rice had “style” – not style born of flamboyance or showmanship, but of pride, purpose, and professionalism. And clearly, it was style wrapped comfortably in substance.

Author’s note

I would like to acknowledge Gabriel Schechter, Leonard Levin, Herman Krabbenhoft, Mike Dugan, Dan Holmes, and Dan O’Brien for providing source material and/or information regarding Sam Rice that was used in the preparation of this biography.


[1] Basics of the Rice family background are provided in Kentland Democrat, April 26, 1912, pg. 1. This information is consistent with the more limited information provided by the United States Census, 1910.

[2] Interview with Ray Webster, resident of Kentland, Indiana reported in John Yost ,”Edgar Charles (Sam) Rice: Enterprise Profile”, Newton County Enterprise, June 7, 1984, pg. 9.

[3] Kentland Democrat; U.S. Census 1910.

[4] Interview with Sam Rice entitled “How the U.S. Navy Made me a Ball Player”, Baseball Magazine, Aug, 1920, pp 429.

[5] Frank Butzow, “Rango Rice, Just a Regular Guy from Watseka, Illinois”, Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct 13, 1925, pg. 17.

[6] Transaction card, Sam Rice (SR) Hall of Fame (HOF) player file.

[7] Galesburg Evening Mail, Apr 12 and 14, 1912.

[8] Galesburg Evening Mail, Apr 15, 1912; Galesburg Evening Mail, Apr 17, 1912.

[9] Galesburg Evening Mail, Apr 23, 1912.

[10] Galesburg Evening Mail, Apr 22, 1912.

[11] Accounts of the events of Apr 21, 1912 and its aftermath are from the Kentland Democrat, Apr 26, 1912, pg. 1. A similar passage is found in the Newton County Enterprise of the day, which was quoted in Yost, 1984.

[12] Chicago Daily Tribune, Apr 27, 1912, pg. 3; Washington Post, Apr 23, 1912, pg. 1.

[13] Galesburg Evening Mail, Apr 23, 1912.

[14] Kentland Democrat.

[15] Yost, 1984.

[16] In addition to the Chicago and Washington D.C. papers referenced in [12] above, see also Boston Daily Globe, Apr 22, 1912, pg. 10; Atlanta Constitution, Apr 22, 1912, pg. 1; Los Angeles Times, Apr 22, 1912, pg. 12; New York Times, Apr 23, 1912, pg. 24.

[17] Galesburg Evening Mail, Apr 24, 1912; Chicago Tribune, Apr 27, 1912.

[18] Galesburg Evening Mail, May 7, 1912.

[19] Galesburg Evening Mail, May 13, 1912.

[20] Details of Rice’s whereabouts and activities between the time of his release from the Pavers and his enlistment in the U.S. Navy are sketchy at best. Rice himself provided no personal information regarding this period of his early life in his 1920 interview. Frank Butzow (1925) indicated that Rice “became an aimless roamer” after his baseball career was stopped in its tracks by the loss of his family, while a brief biographical sketch of Rice in Sporting News, January 5, 1933, pg. 4, stated that Rice “bottled whiskey in Green River distillery in Louisville. Worked in wheat fields of Dakotas and Minnesota … [and as a] … railroad section gang hand” during this time. This account found its way into most subsequent biographical pieces on Rice’s pre-major league days.

[21] There is also some uncertainty as to where he enlisted. According to the Sporting News, January 5, 1933 bio, his wanderings eventually led him to the east and to Norfolk where he subsequently joined up. It has elsewhere been suggested that he enlisted in Louisville, effectively ending his wandering across the Midwest. (See New York Daily Globe, Feb 10, 1929). Regardless of the specific path he took, his ultimate destination was the USS New Hampshire.

[22] Membership Application, Veterans of Foreign Wars, SR HOF player file.

[23] “USS New Hampshire (BB 25)”, US Navy Battleships Web Site, http://www.

[24] “Army and Navy Gossip”, Washington Post, Feb 9 and 23, 1913.

[25] Harold Seymour, Baseball: The Peoples Game, Oxford University Press: New York, 1990, pp. 310-311.

[26] Rice stated that he had pitched for the USS New Hampshire in a contest against the USS Louisiana and had won a game against the Columbia University nine while his ship was docked in New York City. [SR Baseball Magazine interview] A box score and game summary in Washington Post, Jun 8, 1913, pg. S2 confirms his recall regarding the intra-Navy contest, which took place in Alexandria, Va. He gave up two runs in nine-innings as the starting pitcher for the New Hampshire in a 2-0 loss, going 1-4 from the plate.

[27] Robert E. Quirk, Affair of Honor: Woodrow Wilson and the Occupation of Vera Cruz, Norton and Company: New York, 1967.

[28] Washington Post, Jun 7, 1914.

[29] SR Baseball Magazine interview, pg 430. Another interesting first person account of the siege of Vera Cruz from a shipmate of Rice’s appears in Tillou Forbes, “Atlanta Boy Who Bore Flag Amid Fighting at Vera Cruz Home for a Short Furlough,” Atlanta Constitution, Aug 30, 1914, pg. 12.

[30] “Vera Cruz Dead Here in Warship”, New York Times, May 11, 1914, pg 3.

[31] New York Times, May 1, 1914, pg 1.

[32] New York Times, Jun 11, 1914, pg. 2; US Navy Battleship Website.

[33] Petersburg Daily Progress, Jul 30, 1914.

[34] Petersburg Daily Progress, Aug 2, 1914.

[35] Petersburg Daily Progress, Aug 2, 1914.

[36] Petersburg Daily Progress, Aug 7, 10, 18, 23, and 24, 1914.

[37] Washington Post, Jul 29, 1915, pg. 8.

[38] Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff, eds., Minor League Baseball Encyclopedia, Baseball America, Inc: Durham N.C., pg. 139.

[39] Paul MacFarland, ed, Daguerreotypes of Great Stars of Baseball, The Sporting News: St. Louis, 1981, pp. 233-234.

[40] Petersburg Daily Progress, Apr 9, 1915.

[41] Petersburg Daily Progress, Apr 17, 1915.

[42] Petersburg Daily Progress Apr 23, 28, May 2, 1915.

[43] Spalding Official Baseball Guide: 1916, American Sports Publishing Company: New York City, 1916, pp. 257-258.

[44] Petersburg Daily Progress, Jul 28, 1915.

[45] Petersburg Index Appeal, Jul 28, 1915.

[46] Petersburg finished last in the Virginia League in runs scored in 1916, with 342, nearly 100 runs less than Suffolk, the team with the next lowest total (435 runs despite playing four fewer games). Spalding Guide: 1916.

[47] MacFarland, Daguerreotypes.

[48] Most put the value of the Leigh-Griffith transaction at $800. Lower values have sometimes been reported as well.

[49] Petersburg Index Appeal, Jul 28, 1915.

[50] Petersburg Daily Progress, Jul 29, 1915.

[51] Johnson and Wolff, pg. 141; Petersburg Index-Appeal, Jul 29, 1915. Economics were cited by the Index-Appeal as the cause of the franchise’s demise, but in a novel way. “One explanation of the poor attendance during the season was that merchants are so busy this summer that they have not been able to get out to the McKenzie Street Park, nor have they been able to let their clerks off … business has been unusually brisk in Petersburg and there is no doubt that many who would have gone to the games have been kept away by the pressure of making money.”

[52] Washington Post, Jul 30, 1915, page 8.

[53] See, for example, Bob Addie, “Rice Where He Belongs”, Washington Post, May 8, 1963, pg. C2; Shirley Povich, “This Morning with Shirley Povich”, Washington Post, Jan 10, 1956, pg. 19; Washington Post, Oct 14, 1974, pg. C10.

[54] Petersburg Daily Index-Appeal, Jul 24, 1915; Petersburg Daily Progress, July 24, 1915.

[55] Mark Allen Baker, Baseball Autograph Handbook, Krauss Publications, Inc.: Iola, Wisconsin, 1991.

[56] Stanley Milliken, “White Sox Win 6-2”, Washington Post, Aug 8, 1915, page S1. Of note, the right fielder in this game was Walter Johnson, the Hall of Fame Washington pitcher, who was filling in for an injured Dan Moeller, the team’s regular right fielder, who Rice would replace in the line-up for good mid-way through the following season.

[57] Washington Post, Aug 8, 1915, pg. S1.

[58] Washington Post, Aug 11, 1915, pg. 8.

[59] Washington Post, Sep 8, 1915, pg. 8.

[60] Washington Post, Sep 12, 1915, pg S1. Rice pitched at least one more game in 1915 — a shutout in a post season “all-star” contest played in Watseka, which provoked the ire of Ban Johnson, as some of the participants were from Federal League teams. Washington Post, Oct 27, 1915, pg. 8.

[61] Unless otherwise noted, citations regarding Rice’s personal seasonal and career statistics, as well as seasonal National statistics, are from John Thorn, Pete Palmer, et. al., Total Baseball, Fifth Edition, Penguin Books, New York, NY: 1997.

[62] Stanley Milliken, “Best Club in His Regime, Is Opinion of Griffith”, Washington Post, Mar 23, 1916, pg. 8.

[63] Washington Post, May 30, 1916, pg. 8.

[64] Washington Post, May 31, 1916, pg. 8.

[65] Stanley Milliken, “Lose out in Ninth, 4 to 3; Triple by Dauss Decides”, Washington Post, Jun 5, 1916, pg 6.

[66] Billy Evans, “Trivial Things Change Careers of Ball Players”, Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec 5, 1920, pg. A4.

[67] Box scores in Washington Post, Jun 22 and 23, Jul 6, 1916.

[68] Box scores in Washington Post, May 30 and 31, Jun 5 and 23, and Jul 7.

[69] Washington Post, June 28 and July 12 and 16, 1916. Contrary to some reports crediting Rice with 9 pinch hits in 11 attempts before his conversion to the outfield, his actual pinch hitting record during 1916 was a little more modest — he was 5 for 9 in a pinch hitting role for the season, garnering four hits in his last five pinch hitting appearances prior to being inserted in the lineup as a regular. Personal compilation of box scores from Washington Post, 1916 baseball season.

[70] Washington Post, Jul 18, 1916, pg. 6.

[71] Stanley Milliken,” Rice is to Play Right Field; Earns Place on His Batting”, Washington Post, Jul 18, 1916, pg. 6.

[72] See, for example, Butzow (“Rice didn’t last long as a pitcher … for one thing, he was wild”); Irving Vaughan, “Change Often Makes Stars”, Los Angeles Times, Apr 5, 1925, pg. A3.

[73] SR Baseball America interview, pg. 430.

[74] Washington tied for last in the American League in batting during 1916, and were next-to-last in runs per game.

[75] Personal compilation of box scores, Washington Post, 1916 baseball season.

[76] Box scores in Washington Post, Jul 23-Aug 21, 1916.

[77] Stanley Milliken, “Sam Rice Confined to Bed; Fear Typhoid May Develop”, Washington Post, Aug 22, 1916, pg. 6.

[78] Stanley Milliken, “Noted of Nationals”, Washington Post, Sep 17, 1916, pg. S1.

[79] Washington Post, Sep 16, 1916, pg. 8.

[80] Box scores, Washington Post, Sep 14-Oct 3, 1916.

[81] Stanley Milliken, “Noted of Nationals”, Washington Post, Sep 22, 1916, pg. 8; Milliken, “Talking it Over”, Washington Post, Nov 28, 1916, pg. 8.

[82] “World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards,” U.S National Archives and Records Administration, .

[83] SR Baseball Magazine interview, pg. 430.

[84] J.V. Fitz Gerald, “Rice Will Play With Griffs Until Called”, Washington Post, Mar 3, 1918, pg. 17.

[85] J.V. Fitz Gerald, “Rice, Called in the Draft, Will Ask Delay ‘Till Fall”, Washington Post, Mar 29, 1918, pg. 8.

[86] Washington Post, Mar 30, 1918, pg. 8.

[87] Washington Post, Apr 4, 1918, pg. 8.

[88] C.V. Julian, “Another 1,000 Illinois Yanks Reach New York”, Chicago Tribune, Feb 17, 1919, pg. 6.

[89] Washington Post, May 30-31, Jun 20-22, Jun 24-25.

[90] Details regarding Rice’s trek to Europe (and back) with the 68th Coast Artillery Regiment are from the memoirs of Captain J. Lindsay Hoyt, History of the 68th Regiment, C.A.C, .

[91] Washington Post, Jan 31, 1919, pg.10; Chicago Tribune, Feb 17, 1919, pg. 6, Feb 27, 1919, pg.12; Washington Post, Feb 27, 1919. pg. 12.

[92] J.V. Fitzgerald, “Sam Rice on Hand with Lots of Pep”, Washington Post, Mar 23, 1919, pg. 20.

[93] Evans, 1920.

[94] New York Times, December 18, 1920, pg. 17.

[95] Rice and Judge took over the record previously held by teammates Walter Johnson and Clyde Milan at 16. See Baseball Library Website, . Despite having now been passed as the all-time leaders in total number of games played together by two members of the same team, Rice and Judge continue to hold the record for the most hits by such a duo. See Biff Brecher and Albey Reiner, “Teammates with the Numbers”, The Baseball Research Journal, 1994, pg. 17-18.

[96] Mark Armour and Daniel Levitt, Paths to Glory: How Great Baseball Teams Got That Way, Brassey’s, Inc: Virginia, 2003, pp 75-84; MacFarland, Daguerreotypes.

[97] Reed Browning, Baseball’s Greatest Season. 1924, University of Massachusetts Press: Amherst and Boston, 2003, pg.16; N.W. Baxter, “Griff Entry Looks No Better than 1923,” Washington Post, Apr 1, 1924, pg. S1; New York Times, Apr 13, 1924, pg. S1.

[98] According to data provided by Herman Krabbenhoft, (author of Leadoff Batters of Major League Baseball, McFarland Publishers: North Carolina, 2006) Rice opened the game as the National leadoff hitter 74 times during 1924, the second highest number of games at this spot in the lineup in his career (he led off in 113 National games in 1927). In only 3 seasons with the Nationals did Rice attain the majority of his at bats from the leadoff position. He recorded 25% of this total lifetime at bats in the leadoff slot, more frequently hitting out of the third or fourth spot in the batting order.

[99] The Giants were generally favored by those in the sporting press (see e.g. New York Times, Oct 1, 1924, pg. 15), although the betting line favored the Nationals, 11-10. Browning, pg. 83.

[100] Tom Deveaux, The Washington Nationals, 1901-1971, McFarland & Company, Inc: Jefferson, North Carolina, 2001, pp. 68-80.

[101] Stanley Harris, Playing the Game: From Mine Boy to Manager, Fredrick A. Stokes Company: New York, 1925, pp 218-219.

[102] John McGraw, “Zach Proves Giant Killer: Outfielder Rice is Recipient of Much Encomium”, Los Angeles Times, Oct 10, 1924, pg. B3.

[103] New York Times, Apr12, 1925, pg. S1.

[104] Hugh Fullerton, “Team vs. Team Dope Rates Nationals Winners in Series”, Chicago Daily Tribune, Sep 29, 1925, pg. 25.

[105] New York Times, Oct 11, 1925, pg. S2.

[106] Washington Post, Oct 11, 1925, pg. 21.

[107] New York Times, Oct 12, 1925, pg. 26.

[108] Francis Stann, “Rice Still Silent on “Catch’ in ’25 Series”, The Sporting News, Oct 17, 1964, pg. 13.

[109] Bob Addie, “Rice Grateful for Vote”, Washington Post, Mar 1, 1963, pg. D2. A story illustrating the almost perverse enjoyment Rice felt in holding on to his secret over the years was told by Walter Haight. According to Haight, he, Rice, and Henry Rodier, a Washington publisher, were at the ball park, when the topic turned to whether or not Rice had really made the famous catch back in 1925. Rodier said “Sam … Haight wants a story. Why don’t you tell him? At least, I’m your pal. You could tell me.”… Rice supposedly grinned from ear to ear and replied “Remember, Henry, about 15 years ago we were wading after bass in the Shenandoah River and I stepped in a hole, fell into the current, and I’d probably have drowned if you fellows hadn’t pulled me out?” Never forget” replied Rodier.” Well, Henry”, came back Rice, “THATS when you should have asked me.” Walter Haight, “How About it Sam, Did You Catch It?” Washington Post, Sep 5, 1951, pg. 18.

[110] Washington Post, October 11, 1925, pp. 23, 24; Atlanta Constitution, Oct 11, 1925, pg. C3.

[111] Joseph Reichler, “Magic Mitts”, in The World Series: a 75th Anniversary, Simon and Schuster: New York, pp. 40-45; George Vass, “Ten Greatest World Series Fielding Feats!” Baseball Digest, Nov , 1989, pp. 33-37.

[112] Washington Post, Jul 24, 1927, pg. 19.

[113] Washington Post, Jul 25, 1927, pg. 11.

[114] “Frank Young, “Rice Suffering From Sinus, May be Idle for Ten Days”, Washington Post, May 18, 1927, pg. 13.

[115] Washington reporter Frank Young claimed that Rice subsequently discovered he had several impacted teeth and that when they were removed, his health and his performance improved. This claim is a little suspect, however. It does not appear that there were any reports of Rice having dental difficulties at the time they were supposed to have been discovered in 1927. However, in the same column in which Young wrote about Rice’s possible sinus infection in May of 1927, he also reported that dentists had found that National pitcher Stan Coveleski had “a badly infected molar” and a week later that his dentists had removed “several abscessed teeth” and that “… with them out .. [he] would … have no more troubles”. Whether this was a dental coincidence or a confused columnist recollection is not clear. Frank H. Young, “Dauss Made Outfielder of Rice”, Washington Post, Dec 2, 1928, pg. 22; Frank Young, “Tooth Treatment May Help Coveleski”, Washington Post, May 24, 1927, pg. 13.

[116] Frank H. Young, “Outfield Star Sought by Giants”, Washington Post, Dec. 3, 1927, pg. 15; Washington Post, Dec 28, 1927, pg. 13.

[117] Frank H. Young, “Goslin, Alone, Sure of His Position”, Washington Post, Feb 10, 1929, pg. M22; Washington Post, Mar 26, 1929, pg. 15.

[118] Washington Post, Apr 22, 1929, pg. 11.

[119] Washington Post, Jul 5, 1932, pg. 11.

[120] A highlight of his season was “Sam Rice Appreciation Day” at Griffith Stadium. Washington Post, Jul 20, 1932, pg. 9.

[121] Frank H. Young, “See Judge and Cronin as Best Fitted for Manager’s Post”, Washington Post, Oct. 5, 1932, pg. 11.

[122] Washington Post, Nov 7, 1933, pg. 16.

[123] New York Times, Oct 5, 1933. pg. 26; New York Times, Oct. 8, 1933, pg. S9. There was some controversy and debate regarding Cronin’s decision to pinch hit Bolton rather than Rice at the critical juncture in game four, which, if the Nationals had won, would have pulled them even with the Giants heading to game five. Truth be told, the move was supported by the numbers, as Bolton led the American League in pinch hitting that season, with a .588 average (10 for 17), while Rice trailed far behind, at .259 (7 for 27). In fact, despite the important role that pinch hitting played in supporting Rice’s move from the mound to the every day line-up in the early days of his career, he was not a very strong career pinch hitter, averaging only .190 in 105 life-time major league pinch hitting at bats. New York Times, Oct 12, 1933, pg 37; Washington Post, Nov 7, 1933, pg. 16. Allen Lewis, “How Hall of Fame Players Performed as Pinch Hitters”, Baseball Digest, June, 1992, pg. 76-78.

[124] Washington Post, Jan 9, 1934, pg. 17. Rice claimed that he quit before season’s end because of a nagging leg injury. It is not known whether or not he could have garnered the seven additional hits he needed to reach 3,000 had he played on for the remainder of the season, but many wish he had tried. Clearly, “magic numbers”, like 3,000 career hits, were not of as much concern to players of Rice’s era as they are today. Bob Addie, “Rice Grateful for Vote”, Washington Post, Mar 1, 1963, pg. D2.

[125] Washington Post, Sep 19, 1934, pg. 17.

[126] Sam Rice’s height and weight are from Total Baseball. Rice himself was quoted as estimating his playing weight at 144 pounds. Washington Post, Jan 28, 1963, pg. 17.

[127] Trent McCotter, personal research shared with SABR-L list, May 28, 2006.

[128] Representative of the widely held impressions of Rice’s base running skills are the comments made by Pete Marshall, typesetter for the Washington Post, who had followed local Washington baseball for over 50 years, had a reputation as an amateur historian, and who Shirley Povich was fond of quoting in his columns. According to Pete, “Rice used to beat out more infield hits than any man in the league … and it was a pleasure to watch him go down the line. He was light footed, and he just glided.” Shirley Povich, “This Morning with Shirley Povich, Washington Post, Aug 18, 1942, pg. 15.

[129] “Steals of Home: 1915-1934” in SR HOF player file.

[130] “Sam Rice, Griffs Star, Married at Alexandria”, Washington Post, Oct 24, 1920, page 22. There has been some recent misrepresentation of Rice’s marital status during his baseball career, such as “He didn’t marry again until he was 39 years old, to Mary Kendall” (Steve Wulf, “Secrets of Sam”, Sports Illustrated, Jun 19, 1993, pp 58-64). He did not marry Mary Kendall, his third wife, until 1959.

[131] Edith, along with other players’ wives, sometimes made the trip to spring training. See, for example Washington Post, Apr 5, 1929, pg. 15, Mar 1, 1932, pg. 13, and Mar 7, 1933, pg. 11.

[132] Washington Post, Jan 25, 1940; Jul 3, 1942, pg. 22.

[133] Washington Post, Jul 3, 1942, pg. 22.

[134] Sporting News, Jan 3, 1962, pg. 30.

[135] Bob Addie, “Rice Grateful for Vote”, Washington Post, Mar 1, 1963.

[136] See, for example, Washington Post, Feb. 28, 1924, Pg. S3., Al Demaree, “Some Ball Players Play Mean Golf”, Washington Post, Jan 21, 1929, pg. 10, Shirley Povich, “This Morning”, Washington Post, Feb. 13, 1955, pg. C1.

[137] Rice’s golfing exploits in and around the Washington D.C. were frequently recounted in Henry Litchfield West’s “From Tee to Green” column in the Washington Post during 1924-1930. For other examples of Rice’s golfing venues and performances during his baseball career, see Los Angeles Times, Feb. 4, 1925, pg. 22; New York Times, Feb 27, 1926, p9; New York Times, Feb. 25, 1927, pg. 19; Washington Post, Aug 25, 1929, pg. M20, Washington Post, Mar 6, 1931; Washington Post, Nov 6, 1933, pg. 15.

[138] See, for example, Washington Post, Oct 24, 1965, pg. C4; Sporting News, Mar 1, 1969, pg. 29; Sporting News, Feb 17, 1973, pg. 30.

[139] See, for example, Washington Post, Aug 4, 1935, pg. SH6; Mar 4, 1936, pg. 18; Jul 31, 1939, pg. 14; Apr 13, 1947, pg. M8; Jul 28, 1948, pg. 17; Sep 2, pg. C1; Nov 2, 1951, pg. 37; Jan 5, 1956, pg. C3; Oct 11, 1958, pg. A15; Nov 28, 1961, pg. A18.

[140] see, for example, Washington Post, Mar 31, 1935, pg. 17; Nov 11, 1945, pg. M8; Apr 12, 1966, pg. D2; Henry W. Thomas, Walter Johnson: Baseball’s Big Train, University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln, 1998, pg. 330; “Seventh Inning Stretch with Chris Rice”, Baseball Hall of Fame Website, history/2004/040623.htm; Browning, 2003, pg. 145.

[141] Obituaries and burial locations of the players listed may be found at the Deadball Era Website,

[142] Obituary of Edith Rice, Washington Post, Nov 9, 1957, page C2.

[143] Washington Post, Jul 5, 1959, pg. C3. Note that the Rice-Adams wedding is referred to as the second marriage for Rice in the July 5 wedding announcement, which noted his previous marriage to Edith Owens, but not that to his first wife, Beula Stam.

[144] Daughter Chris was graduated from Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University) prior to her marriage in September, 1966. Washington Post, May 22, 1966, pg. F18; Washington Post, Oct 22, 1966, pg. C2.

[145] “Hall of Famers by Induction Year”, Baseball Hall of Fame Website, ; “History of BBWAA Hall of Fame Voting”, Baseball Hall of Fame Website,

[146] See, for example, Mullin, “Forgotten Man”, Sporting News, Jan 26, 1955, pg 17; Povich, “Lost Battalion Waits Outside Shrine”, Sporting News, Jan 26, 1955, pg. 17 and “This Morning With Shirley Povich”, Washington Post, Jan 10, 1956, pg. 19; also Washington Post, Feb 7, 1957, pg A14; Washington Post, Aug 30, 1959, pg. L6; Arthur Daley, “Two Who Rate”, New York Times, Jan 5, 1960, pg. 34 and “In Belated Recognition”, New York Times, Jan 30, 1963.

[147] Washington Post, Jan 27, 1963, pg. C3; Washington Post, Jan 28, 1963, pg. 17.

[148] Rice scores a 153 on the Gray Ink Test (144th out of 225 current Hall of Famer players; average Hall of Famer = 81 ), 50.9 on the Career Hall of Fame Standard Index (81st among all Hall of Famers, average Hall of Famer = 50) and 128 on the Hall of Fame Monitor (likely to make Hall of Fame = 100). His similarity scores align him with Rod Carew, Zack Wheat, Fred Clarke, Tony Gwynn, and Jim O’Rourke, in that order. He falls below average on the Black Ink Test (13 versus an average of 27 among all hall residents, 174th on the list). Baseball Reference website, search.cgi?search=rice; Bill James. The Politics of Glory, MacMillan Publishing Company: New York, NY, 1994.

[149] See, for example, Sporting News, Sep 6, 1969, pg. 7; Sporting News, Apr 3, 1971, pg. 28; Washington Post, Oct 14, 1974, pg. C10.

[150] “Roll Call of Past Induction Ceremonies”, Baseball Hall of Fame Website, .

[151] Washington Post, Oct 15, 1974, pg. 42.

[152] Note from Mary Rice in SR HOF player file.

[153] New York Times, Oct. 15, 1974, pg.42.

[154] Washington Post, Oct 15, 1974, pg. D6.

[155] Shirley Povich, “Rice Leaves Them Guessing on Mystery Catch, Washington Post, Oct 25, 1974, pg. D1.

[156] Ibid.

[157] Gabriel Schechter, “Echoes From the Past: Sam Rice”, Memories and Dreams: Hall of Fame Quarterly Magazine, Summer, 2003.

[158] Shirley Povich, “Sam Rice’s Secret Out”, Washington Post, Nov 5, 1974, pg. D1.

[159] Letter from Norman Budesheim to Paul Kerr, Nov 10, 1974, SR HOF player file.

[160] Rice did briefly mention a death in the family in his interview — he stated that he had been allowed to leave the Nationals toward the end of the 1915 season to go home for the funeral of his sister (possibly his oldest sister, Mabel?) — but nothing about the tragedy that befell the rest of his family in 1912.

[161] Butzow, 1925.

[162] Yost, 1984.

[163] Povich, Washington Post, 1985; Wulf, 1993.

[164] Povich, Washington Post, Jan 10, 1956.

Full Name

Edgar Charles Rice


February 20, 1890 at Morocco, IN (USA)


October 13, 1974 at Rossmoor, MD (USA)

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