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.

2 responses to “Baseball’s tragic mystery man

  1. Thanks for this great post (and pointer)! I never knew. I’ve seen Rice’s stats and knew the name. (I don’t recall seeing his plaque in Cooperstown – I likely did walk by to get to see Cobb and Walter Johnson.) I learned a lot from this.

  2. Maxie, glad you liked the post ~ I’ve been wanting to do a post on Sam Rice for the longest time ~ A followup is planned ~ Cheers, Mark S

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