Sam Rice never played enough on both sides of the ball to qualify as a two-way player during his Major League Baseball career. He only had two seasons where he pitched, and he never made more than 5 appearances on the mound. He did have two seasons in the minors where he qualified as a two-way player. They were early on in his career and led to the Indiana native getting the call to the big leagues.
While with the Petersburg Goobers of the class-C Virginia League Rice saw time as a two-way player. In 1914 he pitched in 15 games and saw action in the outfield in another 16 games. Over 123.0 innings on the mound Rice was quite good. He posted an RA/9 of 2.12 and a WHIP of 0.902. With a bat in his hands, Rice was just as good. His slash line of .310/.319/.380 in 73 plate appearances is quite good for the contact-oriented Deadball Era. On the whole, I wouldn’t hesitate to call Rice’s 1914 season a two-way success.
It’s not surprising then that in 1915 the Goobers once again let Rice play both ways. He played the field in 33 games and pitched in an additional 29 games. His bat remained stout with a .301/?/.372 slash line in 156 at-bats. His numbers on the mound were good yet again in 1915, to the tune of a 1.82 ERA, 2.55 RA/9, and 0.936 WHIP in 233.0 innings pitched. Rice clearly displayed the chops to be both a good position player and a good pitcher.
1915 is the season where Rice earned a call up to the bigs, and while he mainly pitched for the American League’s Washington Senators he was darn good for them. Then he had one bad game in the 1916 season and Rice himself decided he was done as a pitcher. Now, I know that Rice would go on to put together a career as an outfielder that landed him in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Still, he is clearly a case of a guy who should have kept pitching and hitting because the skill was definitely there. Sam Rice ends up being the tale of a great player who probably could have been a great two-way player had he stuck with the role.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Associated Press