Baseball’s Rice~Did He Or Didn’t He?
Sam Rice (born Edgar Charles Rice) was born on February 20, 1890 in Morocco Indiana. The oldest of 6 children, Rice was known as Eddie during high school. In 1908 he married, worked at several odd jobs, ran the family farm
and tried out for various baseball teams. It wasn’t until 1912 that he got a spot on a minor league team. He played a few exhibitions games. On April he appeared as a relief pitcher for the Galesburg Pavers where he gave up only one run and that to “forceful gales”. The same day his wife too the kids to visit with Sam’s parents. A tornado hit and Sam lost his wife, his two children, his mother, his two younger sisters and a farmhand. His father managed to survive but died from injuries a week later.
In 1914 Sam joined the Petersburg Goobers as a pitcher. He did fairly well and returned the follow year. The owner of the team owned some money to the manager of the Washington Senators and offered Sam’s contract as payment. That move, as well as the owner of the Goobers changing Edgar’s name to Sam and convincing the Senators to put Sam in the outfield, changed his career for the better. He stayed with the Senator’s for 19 out of the 20 years he played baseball. ( you don’t see that anymore do you?)
SO I told you all that to tell you this. Imagine if you will (apologies to Rod Serling) the 1925 World Series. It was the the third game. The Washington Senators were ahead 4-3 over the Pittsburg Pirates. There were two outs, and Pirate Earl Smith hit a hard line drive to right center. Sam Rice dove over the wall with the ball in his glove. shortly afterward Sam reappeared with the ball still in his hand. Umpire Charlie Rigler ruled it a catch. The pirates argued that Rice had lost the ball and was handed a new ball by a Washington fan. Oh the argument over whether he did or didn’t catch the ball went on for years and years. When anyone asked Sam Rice
about it, “Hey Sam did you catch the ball?” He would reply
“The Umpire said I did”
In 1965 Sam left a letter at the Hall of Fame in in Cooperstown asking for it to be opened after his death. He said it contained the true story of whether he caught the ball or not. When Rice passed away in 1974 it was opened and read.
“It was a cold and windy day and the right field bleachers were crowded with people in overcoats and wrapped in blankets. The ball was a line drive… and I turned slowly to my right and had the ball in view all the way, going at top speed.
About 15 feet front of the bleachers, I jumped as high as I could an backhanded the ball. I hit the ground about 5 feet form a barrier 4 feet high in front of the bleacher with all the 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 the top and I toppled over on my stomach into the first row of bleachers.
I hit my Adam’s apple on something which sort of knocked me out for a few seconds but McNeely (the Washington right fielder) arrived about that time and grabbed me by my shirt and pulled me out. I remember trotting towards the infield still carrying the ball for about halfway then tossed toward the pitchers mound. (How I wished many times I had kept it.) At no time did I lose possession of the ball.”
So the answer to “did he or didn’t he” is: He did, well according to him. The guy had a great career played some awesome baseball and that catch is the one everyone remembered. In today’s baseball, it would have been reviewed and shown over and over again, at many different angles. He would be remembered for his playing and not a catch he made..or did he?
Sources: Sifakis, Carl. Three Men on Third: And Other Wacky Events from the World of Sports. New York: Prentice Hall General Reference, 1994. Print.