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Edgar Charles "Sam" Rice, 1890-1974

Location: 514 S. Main St., Morocco, Indiana 47963 (Newton Co.)

Installed 2019 Indiana Historical Bureau, The Town of Morocco, Newton County Economic Development Commission, and the Newton County Economic Development Commission, and the Newton County Historical Society

ID#: 56.2019.1

Text

Side One

Baseball Hall of Famer Sam Rice was born near Morocco, Indiana. In 1912, while away at a tryout, most of his family died when a tornado tore through the area. The following year he enlisted in the Navy, and in 1915 made his professional baseball debut with the Washington Senators. A great hitter and quick on the bases, Rice converted from pitcher to outfielder in 1916.

Side Two 

Drafted into the Army in WWI, Rice missed most of the 1918 season. He helped Washington win American League pennants in 1924, 1925, and 1933, and a World Series title in 1924. Over 20 seasons, he was often among league leaders in hits and steals. He played his last year in 1934 with the Cleveland Indians, finishing with a career .322 batting average and 2,987 hits.

Annotated Text

Edgar Charles “Sam” Rice,[1] 1890-1974[2]

Side One

Baseball Hall of Famer[3] Sam Rice was born in Morocco, Indiana.[4] In 1912, while away at a tryout, most of his family died tragically when a tornado tore through the area.[5] He served in the Navy[6] before making his professional baseball debut in 1915 with the Washington Nationals.[7] A great contact hitter and quick on the bases, Rice converted from pitcher to outfielder in 1916.[8] 

Side Two

Drafted into the Army in WWI, Rice missed most of the 1918 season.[9] He helped Washington win American League pennants in 1924,[10] 1925,[11] and 1933,[12] and a World Series title in 1924.[13] Over 20 seasons, he was often among league leaders in hits and steals.[14] He played his last year in 1934 with the Cleveland Indians,[15] finishing with a career .322 batting average and 2,987 hits.[16]

 


Note: All newspapers were accessed via Newspapers.com unless otherwise noted. For a detailed summary of Rice’s life and achievements, see the entry on Sam Rice by Stephen Able of the Society for American Baseball Research or Jeff Carroll, Sam Rice: A Biography of the Washington Senators Hall of Famer, (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2008).

 

[1] [Untitled], Washington Times, July 29, 1915, 10; “Misses Sam Rice,” The Pantagraph [Bloomington, Illinois], April 16, 1918, 5; Billy Evans, “Sam Rice, ‘Man o’War’ of Baseball Started in Big Leagues as Hurler,” St. Louis Dispatch [Missouri], December 5, 1920, 13; “Edgar Charles Rice,” U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925, October 9, 1924, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Edgar Charles ‘Sam’ Rice,” FindAGrave.com; “’Sam’ Rice Dies,” Mexia Daily News [Mexia, Texas], October 14, 1974, 6; “Rice Secret Revealed: He Did Catch It,” Cumberland News [Maryland], October 15, 1974, 8; Stephen Able, “Sam Rice,” Society for American Baseball Research; “Sam Rice,” National Baseball Hall of Fame, accessed https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/rice-sam.

 

Born Edgar Charles Rice, the future Hall of Famer was most commonly known by his nickname “Sam,” throughout his baseball career. He continued to use the name for the rest of his life. Sources conflict on how and when Rice earned the name. Some accounts report that players began calling him “Sam” soon after he joined the Washington Nationals due to his previous military experience in the Navy. Other, more popular accounts, report that Clark Griffith, part-owner and manager of the Nationals, dubbed Rice “Sam” after a reporter asked him about the Nationals’ new acquisition and he could not remember Rice’s name. “Sam” was reportedly used as a filler and it stuck. According to the Society for American Baseball Research, local Petersburg, Virginia newspapers referred to Rice as “Sam” while he was playing with the Petersburg Goobers at least a week before he joined the Nationals in July 1915.

 

[2] “Charles Rice,” Indiana Marriage Index, 1800-1941, Newton County, Indiana, Book 3, Page 47, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Edgar Rice,” 1910 United States Census, Enumeration District 0081, Watseka Ward 2, Iroquois, Illinois, FHL microfilm 1374305, roll T624_292, page 9A, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Edgar Rice,” U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Edgar Charles Rice,” U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925, October 9, 1924, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Edgar Charles ‘Sam’ Rice,” FindAGrave.com; “Sam Rice Dead at 84,” Evening Sun [Baltimore, Maryland], October 14, 1974, 35; Stephen Able, “Sam Rice,” Society for American Baseball Research; “Sam Rice,” National Baseball Hall of Fame, accessed https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/rice-sam.

 

Edgar Charles Rice was born on February 20, 1890 to Charles Rice and Louisa Neumyer [Rice] in Morocco, Newton County, Indiana. His WWI Draft Registration Card and 1924 Passport Application list the year as 1892, but most other sources, including the 1910 Census, his gravestone, and the Society of American Baseball Research list the year 1890. Rice died in Rossmoor, Maryland on October 13, 1974 at the age of 84.
 

[3] “Young’s Yarns,” Pantagraph [Bloomington, Illinois], November 12, 1955, 9; “What They’re Doing Now,” Daily Herald [Provo, Utah], December 20, 1957, 17; “Hall of Fame Voting Unfair, Says Hornsby,” Daily Independent Journal [San Rafael, California], January 21, 1958, 9; Al Hoffman, “Ty Cobb Levels off at Hall of Fame,” Oneonta Star [Oneonta, New York], September 9, 1959, 16; “Sam Rice Runs Close This Time,” Progress-Index [Petersburg, Virginia], January 24, 1962, 22; Forrest R. Kyle, “Sam Rice Makes it into the Hall of Fame, and it’s About Time,” Decatur [Illinois] Daily Review, January 28, 1963, 6; Jack Hand, “Baseball Enshrines 4,” Decatur [Illinois] Daily Review, January 28, 1963, 6; “Four Old-Timers Named to Baseball Hall of Fame,” Edwardsville [Illinois] Intelligencer, January 28, 1963, 2; “Rice Third Hoosier Put in Hall of Fame,” Indianapolis Times, January 28, 1963, 11, accessed Indiana State Library (ISL) microfilm; “Sam Rice,” National Baseball Hall of Fame, accessed https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/rice-sam; “Edgar Charles Rice,” Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame, accessed http://www.indbaseballhalloffame.org; Stephen Able, “Sam Rice,” Society for American Baseball Research.

 

According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Rice received his first vote for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938 and did not receive another until 1948. Throughout the 1950s, reporters and former players such as Rogers Hornsby and Ty Cobb criticized the selection committee and clamored for his entry into the Hall of Fame alongside other old-timers. Rice was finally voted in by the Veterans’ Committee in 1963.

 

[4] “Edgar Rice,” 1910 United States Census, Enumeration District 0081, Watseka Ward 2, Iroquois, Illinois, FHL microfilm 1374305, roll T624_292, page 9A, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Edgar Rice,” U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Edgar Charles Rice,” U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925, October 9, 1924, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Edgar Charles Rice,” U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Edgar Charles ‘Sam’ Rice,” FindAGrave.com; “Hall of Famer Sam Rice Dies,” [Richmond] Palladium-Item, October 15, 1974, 9. 

 

Edgar Charles Rice was born in Morocco, Newton County, Indiana in 1890. The Rice family moved between Newton County and Iroquois County, Illinois during his early years, settling for a time in Donovan, Illinois and Watseka, Illinois.
 

[5] “Immense Damage is Done to Property,” Lake County Times, April 22, 1912, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Nine Persons are Killed in Vicinity of Morocco: Property Damage Will be Great,” Indianapolis Star, April 22, 1912, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “Illinois-Indiana Storm Victims,” Chicago Tribune, April 23, 1912, 3; “Loses His Entire Family in Tornado,” Monmouth Daily Times, April 23, 1912, 6, accessed Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections; “Seven Victims at Home of Charles Rice and Two at the Home of Charles Smart,” Newton County Enterprise, April 25, 1912, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “9 Killed by Cyclone, North of Morocco,” Brook Reporter, April 26, 1912, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “Fierce Tornado Visits Newton and Adjoining Counties,” Kentland Democrat, April 26, 1912, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “Charles Rice Dead,” Newton County Enterprise, May 2, 1912, 1, accessed ISL microfilm.

Rice’s family, including his wife Beulah, two young children, both his parents, and two of his three sisters were all killed by a tornado that tore through eastern Illinois and western Indiana on April 21, 1912. Rice was away pitching for the Galesburg Pavers at the time, hoping to secure a spot on the team’s regular roster, when he received word of the disaster. News of the tornado’s destruction spread nationally.

Newspaper accounts of the disaster conflict as to which family members were killed. Several newspapers confuse Rice’s children as those of his parents and some accounts mistakenly refer to Edgar Charles as “Frank.” Sources also conflict with regard to whether Rice’s parents lived in Donovan, Illinois or Morocco, Indiana at the time. The Kentland Democrat reports that the family farm was somewhere in between, located five miles northeast of Donovan and six miles west of Morocco.

[6] “Edgar Rice,” U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; Denman Thompson, “Much Depends on Sam Rice as to Where Griffmen Land,” Evening Star [Washington, District of Columbia], March 31, 1918, 47; “Rice is Back from France,” Chicago Eagle, April 12, 1919, 7, accessed Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection; “Naval Facts Worth Knowing,” Terrill Record [Iowa], May 16, 1935, 5; Stephen Able, “Sam Rice,” Society for American Baseball Research.


On his WWI Draft Registration Card, Rice notes that he was in the Navy for one and half years. He served aboard the USS New Hampshire. For information on his military service in the U.S. Army during WWI, see footnote 9.

 

[7] “Sporting Comment,” Daily Press [Newport News, Virginia], August 11, 1914, 5; [Untitled], Washington Times [Washington, District of Columbia], July 29, 1915, 10; [Untitled], Dayton Daily News [Ohio], July 31, 1915, 12; William Peet, “Sam Rice Gets His Name in Big League Score for the First Time,” Washington Herald [Washington, District of Columbia], August 8, 1915, 9; [Untitled], Evening Star [Washington, District of Columbia], August 18, 1916, 2; “Sam Rice,” Society for American Baseball Research.

 

While on furlough from the Navy in the summer of 1914, Rice joined the Petersburg Goobers of the Virginia League and pitched a few games for them. Impressed with his play, Manager Heinie Busch and owner Dr. D.H. Leigh arranged for the purchase of his discharge from the Navy. Rice remained with the Goobers for the remainder of the season and for a good portion of the 1915 season before being purchased by Clark Griffith and the Washington Nationals in July 1915.

 

Note: The Washington ball club was officially named the Washington Nationals from 1905-1956, but was commonly known as the Washington Senators during this time. Other nicknames for the team during the period in which Rice played included the Nats and the Griffs or Griffmen (for manager Clark Griffith). The name “Nationals” was used in the marker text since it was the official team name at the time. For more on this see “Washington Senators,” Baseball Reference, accessed https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Washington_Senators.
 

[8] “Sporting Comment,” Daily Press [Newport News, Virginia], August 11, 1914, 5; “Best Club in His Regime, Is Opinion of Griffith,” Washington Post [ Washington, District of Columbia], March 23, 1916, 8; “Rice is to Play Right Field; Earns Place on His Batting,” Washington Post [Washington, District of Columbia], July 18, 1916, 6; [Untitled], Evening Star [Washington, District of Columbia], August 18, 1916, 2; “Sam Rice, ‘Man o’War’ of Baseball Started in Big Leagues as Hurler,” St. Louis Dispatch [Missouri], December 5, 1920, 13; “Baseball Fans Look This Over,” Monmouth Daily Atlas [Illinois], December 17, 1920, 5, accessed Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections; “Sam Rice,” Boston Globe [Massachusetts], February 20, 1924, 17; “Billy Evans Says,” DeKalb Daily Chronicle [Illinois], June 1, 1926, 6, accessed Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections; William Braucher, “Careers of Ruth and Rice Parallel Each Other—Even To Their Conclusion,” Sedalia Democrat [Missouri], August 19, 1934, 6; “Sam Rice,” Society for American Baseball Research; “Sam Rice,” Baseball Reference, accessed https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ricesa01.shtml.

 

Rice began his playing career with the Petersburg Goobers and the Washington Nationals as a pitcher, but was quickly recognized for his talents at the plate. As early as August 1914, an article in the Virginia Daily Press reported on Rice playing as a substitute in right field and noted his abilities as a hitter. In a 1916 article in the Washington Post, writer Stanley Milliken stated “Sam Rice is one of the best hitting pitchers on the team. In fact, outside of Johnson, no one compares with him. He stands up to the plate well, and meets the ball hard. . .” Rice was not a power hitter and hit few homeruns throughout his 20-year career. Instead, he focused on making contact and was often among league leaders in hits.

 

He officially gained the position as right fielder for the Nationals in July 1916. For information on Rice’s hitting and base stealing statistics, see footnote 14.
 

[9] “Edgar Rice,” U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Sammie Rice Falls in Line,” Washington Herald, February 6, 1918, 10; “Sam Rice Enlists,” New York Herald, February 21, 1918, 13; “Sports Cut Short,” Washington Times, February 22, 1918, 18; “Rice Not to Play This Year, He Says,” [Washington, District of Columbia] Evening Star, February 24, 1918, 41; “Washington Loses Services of Rice,” Pittsburgh Press, March 30, 1918, 10; “Much Depends on Sam Rice as to Where Griffmen Land,” Evening Star [Washington, District of Columbia], March 31, 1918, 47; “Soldiers Have Sam Rice of the Senators in Their Lineup,” Norwich [Connecticut] Bulletin, May 9, 1918, 3; “’Bat Scramble’ Between Soldier Guests of Club will be Added Attraction at Red Sox-Nationals Game,” [Washington, District of Columbia] Evening Star, June 30, 1918, 49; “Edgar C Rice,” U.S. Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Rice Will Report Ready for Season,” Washington Times, January 27, 1919, 17.
 

[10] “Rice’s Hit Brings in Winning Tally,” Salt Lake Telegram [Utah], September 1, 1924, 4; “Hitting Streak of Sam Rice Stopped,” Boston Globe, September 27, 1924, 8; “Series to Open on Saturday,” Richmond Item, September 30, 1924, 5; Billy Evans, “How World Series Rivals Stack Up,” [Olean, New York] Times Herald, September 30, 1924, 17; “Babe Ruth and Johnson Share American Honors,” Evening Journal [Wilmington, Delaware], October 4, 1924, 12; “Rogers Hornsby Only .400 Hitter in Major Leagues,” Atlanta Constitution, October 5, 1924, 36; “Batting-Fielding-Pitching,” Atlanta Constitution, October 5, 1924, 36; “Sam Rice Boss Series Hitter with Big 455,” News-Messenger [Fremont, Ohio], October 7, 1924, 6; “Sam Rice the Hero for Senators Yesterday,” Baltimore Sun, October 10, 1924, 15; “Had Great Batting Streak,” Winnipeg [Manitoba, Canada] Tribune, October 14, 1924, 15; “Sam Rice,” Baseball Reference, accessed https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ricesa01.shtml; “1924 Washington Senators Statistics,” Baseball Reference, accessed https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WSH/1924.shtml; Gary Sarnoff, “September 29, 1924: First in war, first in peace, now first in the American League,” Society of American Baseball Research, accessed https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/september-29-1924-first-war-first-peace-now-first-american-league.

 

Rice finished the 1924 season with 216 hits, the most of any player in the American League. He batted safely in 31 consecutive games from late August through late September as the Nationals closed in on their first American League pennant in franchise history. On September 29th, Washington defeated the Boston Red Sox 4-2 to clinch the pennant, finishing two games ahead of the New York Yankees. See footnote 14 for information on the 1924 World Series between the Nationals and New York Giants. 

 

In an article comparing the value of potential World Series players in late September 1924, umpire Billy Evans described Rice as “one of the fastest men in the American League. Fine fielder, good baserunner, and dangerous batsman… A veteran who has played high-class consistent baseball throughout his career.”
 

[11] “Sam Rice Has It on His Right Field Opponents,” Richmond Item, September 30, 1925, 5; [Untitled], Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 2, 1936, 19; “Rice Secret Revealed: He Did Catch It,” Cumberland News [Maryland], October 15, 1974, 8; “Sam Rice,” Baseball Reference, accessed https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ricesa01.shtml; “1925 Washington Senators Statistics,” Baseball Reference, accessed https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WSH/1925.shtml; “Sam Rice,” National Baseball Hall of Fame.

 

The Washington Nationals clinched their second consecutive American League pennant in 1925. They lost the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates four games to three.

 

Rice was dominant in the series. His twelve hits were the most of any player on both teams. However, it was Rice’s play in the field that was remembered for years to come. In Game 3 of the series, Earl Smith of the Pirates drove a ball towards the center field bleachers. Rice chased after it and fell into the bleachers and out of view of the playing field trying to make the catch. He resurfaced moments later holding the ball and the batter was called out. Pirates’ players and fans protested the call on the field and argued that Rice had not held onto the ball. Rice was coy about the play immediately after and in years to come. He eventually wrote a letter to the Hall of Fame about the catch and asked that it remain sealed until after his death. In it, he wrote “At no time did I lose possession of the ball.”

 

[12] “Sam Rice,” Baseball Reference, accessed https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ricesa01.shtml; “Senators Win Third League Pennant,” Boston Globe, September 22, 1933, 28; “Senators Win Pennant,” Atlanta Constitution, September 22, 1933, 19; “Giants Win World Series on Ott’s Homer in Tenth,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 8, 1933, 35; “World Series Composite Score,” Chicago Tribune, October 8, 1933, 28; “1933 Washington Senators Statistics,” Baseball Reference, accessed https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WSH/1933.shtml
 

The Washington Nationals defeated the St. Louis Browns 2-1 on September 21st to clinch the 1933 American League pennant. They lost to the New York Giants in the World Series four games to one. 

 

Rice was in his forties during the 1933 season and did not play regularly. According to Baseball Reference, he played in 73 games and finished with a .294 batting average, one of only five seasons in which he did not bat over .300. He made one appearance at the plate during the World Series as a pinch hitter and batted 1.000.
 

[13] Billy Evans, “How World Series Rivals Stack Up,” [Olean, New York] Times Herald, September 30, 1924, 17; Stanley (Buck) Harris, “Lady Luck Frowns on Washington, Says Pilot,” October 9, 1924, 15; “Capital Acclaims Four Heroes of Sixth Desperate Battle,” Baltimore Sun, October 10, 1924, 1; “M’Graw Declares Zachary Had Luck,” Baltimore Sun, October 10, 1924, 16; “One of the Most Spectacular Plays in Series,”  [Frederick, Maryland] News, October 11, 1924, 7; “Crown of Victory Goes to Washington,” [Frederick, Maryland] News, October 11, 1924, 6; “World Series Winners Paid Up, Disband,” [Minneapolis] Star Tribune, October 12, 1924; “Big Moments in World Series Games,” Pittsburgh Press, October 18, 1924, 11; “They Were Leaders in Fielding and Batting in World’s Series Games,” Anaconda Standard [Montana], October 19, 1924, 23.

 

Washington played the New York Giants in the 1924 World Series and defeated them four games to three to claim their first World Series title in franchise history. Rice started off hot at the plate, with five hits in his first eleven at-bats, before cooling down the remainder of the series. He made several spectacular catches in the outfield that helped save runs, including three in Game 6.

 

[14] “Sam Rice is Good on Bases,” New Castle News [Pennsylvania], August 9, 1920, 16; “Sisler Leads in American,” Evening Journal [Wilmington, Delaware], October 2, 1920, 9; “Rice’s 478 Attempted Chances New Record for Big Leagues,” Evening Star [Washington, District of Columbia] December 17, 1920, 30; “Babe Ruth and Johnson Share American Honors,” Evening Journal [Wilmington, Delaware], October 4, 1924, 12; “Sam Rice is Premier Sack Swiper of Majors,” Atlanta Constitution [Georgia], August 8, 1926, 11; “Manush Finishes in Lead 8 Points Ahead of Ruth,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, October 3, 1926, 30; “American League Leaders,” DeKalb Daily Chronicle, April 11, 1927, 9, accessed Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections; “Sam Rice,” Society for American Baseball Research; “Sam Rice,” Baseball Reference, accessed https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ricesa01.shtml.

 

Rice led the American League in hits in 1924 and 1926 (sources claim either 216 or 217 in both seasons) and he led the league in steals in 1920 with 63 (newspaper accounts from the period report 64, but Baseball Reference lists 63). He finished in the top ten in both categories in twelve of his twenty seasons.

 

[15] “Sam Rice Draws Senator Release,” Oakland Tribune [California], January 8, 1934, 10; “Johnson Thinks Rice Can Still Hit,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle [New York], January 31, 1934, 21; “Sam Rice to Join Cleveland Indians,” Sandusky Register [Ohio], February 14, 1934, 7; “Indians,” Rushville Republican, March 15, 1934, 5; “Rice Walt’s Third Eye,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle [New York], April 6, 1934, 9; “Indians Release Pair of Veterans,” Circleville Herald [Ohio], January 5, 1935, 6; “Sam Rice,” Baseball Reference, accessed https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ricesa01.shtml.

 

Rice played 19 seasons with the Washington Nationals. He was released from the team in early 1934 and was signed by the Cleveland Indians where he played his last year.

 

[16] “Young’s Yarns,” Pantagraph [Bloomington, Illinois], November 12, 1955, 9; “Rice Third Hoosier Put in Hall of Fame,” Indianapolis Times, January 28, 1963, 11, accessed ISL microfilm; “Sam Rice,” Society for American Baseball Research; “Sam Rice,” Baseball Reference, accessed https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ricesa01.shtml.

 

Rice finished his twenty-season career with 2,987 hits, just thirteen shy of baseball’s coveted 3,000-mark.

Keywords

Sports, Nature (natural disasters)