Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Sam Rice:
I came across this card on the Bay of E whilst hunting down a more familiar "variation" card from the same set. With all of the buzz earlier this spring regarding card variations in both flagship and Heritage, I geeked out and dove into the dusty days of hobby yore to see if I could find some real genesis-esque examples of this modern-day hobby excitement.
On a relatively reasonable budget, of course - which is hard to do when you start looking back in hobby time. That being said, I was able to find one of the cards I was looking for AND while deciding if I was going to scoop up said ancient variation......I found Mr. Rice. Once the thought of combined shipping gets into my brain, I start to doing crazy, out-of-the-box and many times DUMB things when it comes to my collecting. But being dumb can be fun, too.....
Anyways, this '33 Rice caught my collecting eye and so I needed to educate myself. Washington Senators....okay, don't really collect them in particular but they are always a welcome addition due to their baseball heritage. A quick review shows that the Senators won the American League in 1933, though! I like THAT connection with this card. They lost the Series to the New York Giants in five games.
Let's see, Sam only hit ONE home run in 1933. It came on August 27th off of Clint Brown, a solo shot. It looks like Sam's career was winding down in '33. He only had 89 plate appearances but turned out an impressive .294 average.
1933 Goudey.....I don't particularly collect 1933 Goudey's, but this is because cost is usually prohibitive for me. I mean, would any of us be able to truly say that we don't collect T206 cards? He was in the Hall of Fame, Veterans Committee class of 1963.
Wait, WHAT?!?! Hall of Fame?!?!?! I double-checked the starting bid price for this graded card and even ran a sanity check via PSA's SMR Report. Out-of-the-box it is!
I added this card to my list of bids and won without a fight. Perhaps I misjudged the perceived deal? Now that I have Mr. Rice safely in my collection - I would argue that notion to the end of my days.
Here's the back:
I love old card backs and these Goudey's never seem to disappoint! As you can see, Sam broke into baseball as a pitcher....but would wind up in the Hall of Fame as an outfielder? How did this happen? Well, we should start from the beginning.
Edgar Rice grew up on a farm in Indiana, married at the age of eighteen in 1908 and had two kids by the age of twenty-two. While running the family farm, though, he had a dream to play baseball and would continuously try out for clubs in the region. During his travels for one such tryout in neighboring Illinois, Mrs. Rice and the kids set off one day to spend some time with her husband's family in a neighboring Indiana town. Unfortunately, severe weather set in and a tornado decimated the Rice Family farm, killing Edgar's wife, his two children, his mother and two younger sisters. A week later, his father passed away from his injuries, too.
Are you kidding me?
Somewhere in the midst of his grieving, Edgar decided to join the United States Navy - another great connection for me with this player and this card! He would serve aboard the USS New Hampshire (BB_25) and play on the ship's baseball team, finding a way to keep his dream alive. Here is a picture of the New Hampshire:
At some point in 1914, Edgar Rice tried out for a professional baseball team in Virginia, which makes sense as BB-25 was based out of Norfolk, Virginia. Edgar made the team, owned by "Doc" Lee, and had a very successful campaign as a pitcher, going 9-2.
Here is where fate intervened, in my opinion. Doc Lee owed a debt to Washington Senators owner, Clark Griffith (Griffith Stadium?), so Doc offered up Edgar's contract as payment.....folks, it was a $300 debt! But Griffith ended up with a pretty good deal, I'd say - he accepted Edgar's contract as payment with two interesting conditions. First, Doc Lee had changed Edgar's name to "Sam" and second, Lee convinced the Senators to allow Sam to play in the outfield.
There you go, a Hall of Fame outfielder named Sam Rice is born, a mere six years after the crushing loss of his entire family. AMAZING!
As the card explains, through 18 seasons in the "Big Show" (love it!), Rice recorded a batting average over .300 in 15 different years, barely missing the mark in 1916, 1922 and 1927 (.299, .295 and .297 respectively!). He led the American League in 1920 with 63 stolen bases, with George Sisler way back in 2nd place with 42 (Ty Cobb 15, Babe Ruth 14, if you were wondering!). Goudey couldn't have known at the time, but Sam would end his career with 2987 hits, just thirteen short of the 3,000 milestone. A couple of years after Rice retired, his old boss Mr. Griffith actually approached him and pointed this fact out, even offering the opportunity for Sam to return to the game, if just to collect those 13 remaining hits. His 'salt of the earth' roots really shone through, as he admitted to Griffith and many more that he really wasn't aware of his hit total, nor was he interested in making a comeback to chase the mark.
But what about the line on the back of this card, "And, boy, can't he go and get 'em in the outfield!"
Well....it could be referring to Game 3 of the 1925 World Series, Rice and the Senators were leading the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 in the 8th inning. For some reason, Sam moved over to right field from usual spot in center. As luck would have it, with two outs, the Bucs' catcher drove a ball in Sam's direction, heading over the fence as a would-be home run until Rice snagged the ball at the last moment, toppling over the fence and disappearing from view. Sam eventually stood up, showing the ball in his glove, at which point the umpire declared Earl Smith the final out of the inning. The Senators would win that game, and the next, before dropping three in a row to lose the Series in seven games.
But did he make the catch? Sam wouldn't discuss it much with the press, often only reminding them that the umpire had called the batter out. The intrigue persisted, though, which is amazing to me since the play would have only resulted in Smith tying up the game at 4 runs a piece with an inning to go. PLUS, the Pirates ended up winning the Series anyways! But hey, this is why I love baseball. And how could this story get any better? Well, Sam Rice penned a letter that was to be opened upon his death, which occurred in 1974 at age 84. The letter explained his account of the controversial catch in the '25 Series and ended with his emphatic statement, "At no time did I lose possession of the ball."
Well played, Sam! I'm sure you''ll understand when I say it is an honor to bring this Sam Rice Goudey card into my collection. It is graded "GOOD 2" by PSA and, while it does have some staining and discoloration along the front borders and back, the front image of Rice is very sharp with strong coloring that is very nice to look at. The corners are well-rounded and the edges have been "nibbled" on by time.....but these facts don't detract from the card's overall appearance (or enjoyment) in my opinion and the centering is solid.
I'm so glad that I stumbled upon this card in my search. I learned a lot about Mr. Rice and now have some great stories to accompany this grand old card of a very interesting Hall of Famer.
Thanks for reading and keep collecting!