Daily Archives: June 21, 2010

Baseball’s tragic mystery man

He was a real-life Roy Hobbs. During the course of a Hall of Fame career with the Washington Senators, Sam Rice never told anyone that years before his whole family had been killed in a tornado on the Great Plains.

Steve Wulf wrote about Sam Rice in a feature for Sports Illustrated in 1993 that you can now read online at the SI Vault. The piece, titled “The Secrets of Sam,” is a remarkable one.

No plaque tells the whole story of a Hall of Famer, but the Rice bronze may be the most inadequate in Cooperstown. Numbers can say that he was a great hitter and a fine outfielder. The story of his life—actually two lives—is the stuff of a novel or a play or a movie. No plaque could tell of the tragedy and triumph of Sam Rice. No plaque could reveal the mystery he held on to with a death grip, as if it were a fly ball in the World Series. His plaque should just read: A MAN WHO COULD KEEP A SECRET.