|Born: February 20, 1890
|Died: October 13, 1974
|Batted: Left||Threw: Right|
|August 7, 1915 for the Washington Senators|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 18, 1934 for the Cleveland Indians|
|Runs batted in||1,078|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Election Method||Veteran's Committee|
Edgar Charles "Sam" Rice (February 20, 1890 – October 13, 1974) was an American pitcher and right fielder in Major League Baseball. Although Rice made his debut as a relief pitcher, he is best known as an outfielder. Playing for the Washington Senators from 1915 until 1933, he was regularly among the American League leaders in runs scored, hits, stolen bases and batting average. He led the Senators to three postseasons and a World Series championship in 1924. He batted left-handed but threw right-handed. Rice played his final year, 1934, for the Cleveland Indians. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1963.
Rice was best known for making a controversial catch in the 1925 World Series which carried him over the fence and into the stands. While he was alive, Rice maintained a sense of mystery around the catch, which had been ruled an out. He wrote a letter that was opened after his 1974 death which claimed that he had maintained possession of the ball the entire time.
Rice grew up in various towns near Morocco, Indiana, on the Indiana-Illinois border, and considered Watseka, Illinois, his hometown. In 1908 he married Beulah Stam, and they had two children. They lived in Watseka, where Rice ran the family farm, worked at several jobs in the area, and attended tryouts for various professional baseball teams.
In April 1912 Sam traveled to Galesburg, Illinois for a baseball tryout, and his wife took their children to the homestead of Rice's parents in Morocco, Indiana (about 20 miles from Watseka) to spend the day. A storm arose, and a tornado swept across the homestead, destroying the house and most of the outbuildings, and killing Rice's wife, two children, his mother, his two younger sisters and a farmhand. Rice's father survived for another week before also succumbing to his injuries. Rice had to attend two funerals: one for his parents and sisters, and a second for his wife and children.
Probably wracked with grief, Rice spent the next year wandering the area and working at several jobs. In 1913 he joined the United States Navy and served on the USS New Hampshire, a 16,000-ton battleship that was large enough to field a baseball team. Rice played on that team during one season. He was on the ship when it took part in the United States occupation of Veracruz, Mexico.
In 1914 Rice tried out for a professional baseball team in Petersburg, Virginia, and was accepted. As a pitcher, he compiled a 9–2 record during the year that he played for that team. Team owner "Doc" Lee owed a $300 debt to Clark Griffith, who owned the major-league Washington Senators at the time, and he offered Rice's contract to Griffith in payment of the debt. Lee is credited with two acts which influenced Rice's subsequent career: he changed the player's name from 'Edgar' to 'Sam', and he convinced the Senators to let Rice play in the outfield instead of pitching.
Rice played for 19 years as a Senator, and played the final year of his career with the Cleveland Indians, retiring at age 44. Rice hit for a batting average over .300 in thirteen seasons and hit for a .322 career average. He led the AL in stolen bases in 1920. Rice stood erect at the plate and used quick wrists to slash pitches to all fields. He never swung at the first pitch and seldom struck out, once completing a 616-at-bat season with nine strikeouts. As the ultimate contact man with the picture-perfect swing, Rice was never a home run threat, but his speed often turned singles into doubles, and his 1920 stolen base total of 63 earned him the timely nickname "Man o' War".
With 2,987 hits, Rice has the most of any player not to reach 3,000. He was 44 years old at the time of his last game. Rice later said, "The truth of the matter is I did not even know how many hits I had. A couple of years after I quit, [Senators owner] Clark Griffith told me about it, and asked me if I'd care to have a comeback with the Senators and pick up those 13 hits. But I was out of shape, and didn't want to go through all that would have been necessary to make the effort. Nowadays, with radio and television announcers spouting records every time a player comes to bat, I would have known about my hits and probably would have stayed to make 3,000 of them."
The most famous moment in Sam Rice's career came in defense. During game three of the 1925 World Series with the Senators playing the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Senators were leading the Pirates 4–3. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Sam Rice was moved from center field to right field. With two outs in the bottom of the inning, Pirates catcher Earl Smith drove a ball to right-center field. Rice ran down the ball and appeared to catch the ball at the fence, potentially robbing Smith of a home run that would have tied the game. After the catch, Rice toppled over the top of the fence and into the stands, disappearing out of sight. When Rice reappeared, he had the ball in his glove and the umpire called the batter out. The umpire's explanation was that as soon as the catch was made the play was over, and so it did not matter where Sam Rice ended up. His team ultimately lost the Series in seven games.
Controversy persisted over whether Rice actually caught the ball and whether he kept possession of the ball the entire time. Rice himself would not tell, only answering: "The umpire called him out," when asked. Magazines offered to pay him for the story, but Rice turned them down, saying: "I don't need the money. The mystery is more fun." He would not even tell his wife or his daughter. The controversy became so great that Rice wrote a letter to be opened upon his death. After Sam died, the letter was opened and it contained Rice's account of what happened. At the end of the letter, he wrote: "At no time did I lose possession of the ball."
See:Career Statistics for a complete explanation.
Rice eventually married for a second time (Mary). His wife Mary had a daughter by a prior marriage, Christine. Contrary to prior reports, Christine was not Sam's biological daughter. In 1965 Rice and his family were interviewed in advance of a program to honor his career. The interviewer asked Rice about the tornado, and as he told of the storm and its destruction, his wife and children learned for the first time of the existence of his previous family.
Rice died on 13 October 1974. He was buried in Woodside Cemetery in Brinklow, Maryland.
- List of Major League Baseball Hit Records
- List of major league players with 2,000 hits
- List of Major League Baseball players with 400 doubles
- List of Major League Baseball players with 100 triples
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 runs
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 RBI
- List of Major League Baseball leaders in career stolen bases
- List of Major League Baseball stolen base champions
- List of Major League Baseball triples champions
- Paul Niemann, Red, White & True Mysteries, Tooele Transcript-Bulletin, 10 November 2011
- Red, White & True
- Sam Rice Stats at baseball-almanac.com
- Jeff Carroll, Sam Rice: A Biography of the Washington Senators Hall of Famer, McFarland Publications, 1997
- "There is one thing about Edgar 'Sam' Rice that no one could dispute: He sure could keep a secret." Red, White & True
- Sam Rice at the Baseball Hall of Fame
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- SABR biography
- Biography published by McFarland & Company