Early Years

Edgar Charles Rice was born February 20, 1890, in Morocco, Indiana (why was he nicknamed Sam? I have no idea.) He had no real aspirations for baseball, choosing instead to work on his father's farm. At the young age of 19, he married Hannah West, and within 3 years, he had 2 beautiful little girls.

Tragedy

On April 21, 1912, a tornado unexpectedly struck the Rice family farm. The family gathered inside the house, but the roof was blown off.

Rice's parents, siblings, wife, and 2 children all perished.

Rice survived.

Baseball

Rice simply didn't have the nerve to remain on the farm, so he sold it and joined the US Navy, traveling as a sailor between the East Coast and Mexico. While in Mexico, he picked up baseball, and his speed proved to be an enormous asset. His quickness would virtually guarantee him a hit every time he came to the plate. Clark Griffith, the owner of the Washington Senators, saw him play some barnstormer games in 1914 and signed him to his team as a pitcher in 1915.

Major Leagues

Rice pitched a few games in 1915, and was moved to right field, where he platooned in the role. Taking over full time in 1917, Rice was already 27 years old, an age where many players had already had 5 or 6 years of major league experience.

Still, Rice's speed proved to be a constant annoyance to opposing teams. He never batted lower than .295 in any one season, frequently stole bases (leading the league with 63 in 1920), and would routinely turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Not a power hitter, Rice only managed 34 home runs in his career.

Three times Rice's Senators went to the World Series, in 1924, 1925, and 1933 (winning in 1924). However, it is the 1925 World Series versus the Pittsburgh Pirates for which Rice will forever be remembered.

The Catch?

The Scene
Griffith Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Game 3 of the World Series, 8th inning.
Washington leads the game 4-3 and threatens to take 2-1 lead in the Series.



RADIO ANNOUNCER

"Earl Smith steps up to the plate for the Pirates. Marberry looks fresh out there. Wings one in on Smith - strike one! Marberry settles in, reads the sign, here's the pitch and - whoa nelly! That ball's got gas! It's headed to deep right field! Deep, deep, Rice is converging on it quickly, he's up in the air, he's caught it - and he's fallen into the bleachers! I don't believe it!"

Had he caught the ball? For 15 long seconds, the umpires simply watched the tangle in the crowd unfurl as Rice tried to free himself and get back to the field.

Rice emerged, opened his glove, and showed the ball to the umps. They ruled Smith out, and immediately a protestation was begun. Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis was on hand and was asked to make an on-the-spot call. Landis asked Rice if he had caught it. To which Rice replied:

"The umpire said I caught it."

Apparently satisfied, Landis let the ruling on the field stand. The Senators went on to win the game, but eventually lost the Series.

The End

In 1930, Sam Rice had 207 hits at the amazing age of 40 - the oldest player to ever get 200 hits (he also did it 5 other times.) He was traded to the Cleveland Indians before the start of the 1934 season, where he batted .293 and then retired, saying his heart wasn't in the game. Rice finished with 2,987 hits, an amazing figure if you consider he missed 6 prime years of playing. Today he is still among the top 100 all-time in doubles, triples, hits, batting average, runs scored, and stolen bases.

After Baseball

Rice spent a good part of his post-baseball career working with banks throughout the Maryland/Virginia area. He also wrote a letter, to be opened upon his death, telling the truth of what had happened on that October day in 1925. He was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame by the Special Veterans Committee in 1963.

Sam Rice passed away October 13, 1974 in Rossmoor, Maryland, just 5 years after his beloved Washington Senators had moved to Dallas and become and the Texas Rangers. On November 6 of that year, officials at Cooperstown opened his letter, which read in part:

"At no time did I lose possession of the ball."

Lifetime Statistics:

 YEAR TEAM      G   AB    R    H   D   T  HR  RBI  SB  CS  BB   K    BA
 1915 WSH AL    4    8    0    3   0   0   0    0   0   0   0   1  .375
 1916 WSH AL   58  197   26   59   8   3   1   17   4   0  15  13  .299
 1917 WSH AL  155  586   77  177  25   7   0   69  35   0  50  41  .302
 1918 WSH AL    7   23    3    8   1   0   0    3   1   0   2   0  .348
 1919 WSH AL  141  557   80  179  23   9   3   71  26   0  42  26  .321
 1920 WSH AL  153  624   83  211  29   9   3   80  63  17  39  23  .338
 1921 WSH AL  143  561   83  185  39  13   4   79  26  12  38  10  .330
 1922 WSH AL  154  633   91  187  37  13   6   69  20   9  48  13  .295
 1923 WSH AL  148  595  117  188  35  18   3   75  20   8  57  12  .316
 1924 WSH AL  154  646  106  216  39  14   1   76  24  13  46  24  .334
 1925 WSH AL  152  649  111  227  31  13   1   87  26  11  37  10  .350
 1926 WSH AL  152  641   98  216  32  14   3   76  24  23  42  20  .337
 1927 WSH AL  142  603   98  179  33  14   2   65  19   6  36  11  .297
 1928 WSH AL  148  616   95  202  32  15   2   55  16   3  49  15  .328
 1929 WSH AL  150  616  119  199  39  10   1   62  16   8  55   9  .323
 1930 WSH AL  147  593  121  207  35  13   1   73  13   8  55  14  .349
 1931 WSH AL  120  413   81  128  21   8   0   42   6   5  35  11  .310
 1932 WSH AL  106  288   58   93  16   7   1   34   7   4  32   6  .323
 1933 WSH AL   73   85   19   25   4   3   1   12   0   2   2   7  .294
 1934 CLE AL   97  335   48   98  19   1   1   33   5   1  28   9  .293 
 CAREER      2404 9269 1514 2987 498 184  34 1078 351 143 708 275  .322 


* Bold denotes led league.

Sources:

  • BaseballHistorian.com] - http://www.baseballhistorian.com
  • Baseball-Reference.com - http://www.baseball-reference.com
  • Illinois Tornadoes Before 1916 - http://www.il-st-acad-sci.org/transactions/PDF/8601.pdf

Hall Of Fame Index
Pee Wee Reese | Branch Rickey

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