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, a left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, stood erect at the plate and used quick wrists to slash pitches to all fields. He never swung at the first pitch and seldom fanned, 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 blazing speed turned singles into doubles and his 1920 stolen base total of 63 earned him the timely nickname "Man o' War".
Rice played his final year, 1934, for the Cleveland Indians. He hit one home run during his final year, becoming one of the few major league players to hit a home run at age 45. During his career, he gave 1892 as his birthyear; when he was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1963, he said it was 1890. A geneological search on the Ancestry website revealing family trees states that he was actually born in 1889.
Sam Rice is interred in Woodside Cemetery in Brinklow, Maryland.
See:Career Statistics for a complete explanation.
The most famous moment in Sam Rice's career came in defense. During game three of the 1925 World Series, the Senators were leading the game 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, 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.
This caused great controversy on 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 Hall of Fame President Paul Kerr 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."
Whether he actually made the catch cleanly or not, his team ultimately lost the Series, in seven games, after winning 3 of the first 4 games
Early life: tragedyEdit
Rice grew up in various towns near Morocco, Indiana, on the Indiana-Illinois border, and considered Watseka, Illinois, his hometown. In 1912, Rice was playing with a low-level minor-league baseball team in Galesburg, Illinois, near the Iowa-Illinois border, when his wife, two children, mother and two younger siblings, along with a hired hand on the family farm, were all killed in a tornado that swept through the area. Rice's father Charles died from injuries sustained in the storm a few days later. Rice left the area shortly afterward, working various odd jobs and eventually joining the United States Navy and fighting in the ill-fated Occupation of Veracruz in Mexico. Rice never publicly revealed the family tragedy in his past. He married twice more. His daughter, Chris, is a teacher.
- 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 stolen base champions
- List of Major League Baseball triples champions
- Baseball Hall of Fame
- Baseball-Reference.com - Major league career statistics
- SABR biography
- Biography published by McFarland & Company
|American League Stolen Base Champion|