Teams: Washington Senators, 1915-1933; Cleveland Indians, 1934
Rice was one of a very few players to
make more hits after age 40 than
before age 30.
Upon returning to the Senators in 1919 at age 29, with only one full season as a regular under his belt, Rice embarked on a tear that would leave him only 13 hits short of the hallowed 3,000 total when he retired 15 years later.
Edgar Charles Rice (1890-1974) enlisted in the Navy in 1913. While aboard the U.S.S. Hampshire, Rice pitched for the ship’s baseball team and drew the attention of the Petersburg club in the Virginia League.
Signing with Petersburg when his Navy hitch was up, he closed the 1914 season with nine wins and also hit .310 while playing the outfield occasionally. In August 1915, Rice was sold to Washington. His mound work failed to impress Griffith during the 1915 season. Griffith switched Sam to the outfield full-time at the end of 1916.
Rice’s prime years came in the middle 1920s. During a four-year span he led the American League twice in hits and once in triples. Additionally, he played on Washington’s first two pennant-winning teams in 1924 and 1925. After hitting just .214 in the 1924 World Series, Sam covered himself with glory in fall play the next year as he batted .364 with 12 hits, a Series record that endured until 1964.
The greatest moment of Rice’s career, however, came in the eighth inning of the third game when he snared a long drive off the bat of Pittsburgh’s Earl Smith while tumbling into the temporary right field bleachers in Griffith Stadium. Pirates players vehemently insisted that Rice dropped the ball when he landed in the seats, but umpire Cy Rigler ruled it a fair catch.
Asked whether he had held the ball, Rice was evasive but later sent a sealed letter to the Hall of Fame that was not to be opened until after his death. After he died, in 1974, the letter revealed that Rice asserted, “At no time did I lose possession of the ball.”
Rice’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame was delayed for many years because he was 13 hits shy of 3,000. In 1934, when Sam retired, reaching 3,000 hits was not considered particularly important. As it was, he had to wait until 1963 to be named to Cooperstown.
Here are Sam Rice's major league totals:
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