Aug. 7, 1915: Sam Rice debuts on the mound as the Big Train starts in right

Washington Manager Clark Griffith acquired Edger Rice, known as “Sam,” as payment for a $300 debt owed by the owner of Rice’s Virginia State League team. It’s hard to imagine a better bargain for a future Hall of Famer.

Rice joined Griffith’s squad in Washington on July 30, 1915, in the midst of a long home stand. The rookie pitcher didn’t make his debut until August 7 against the White Sox. He came out of the bullpen to replace righty Jim Shaw with Chicago up, 5-0, and a runner on first in the top of the sixth inning. Rice induced an inning-ended double-play grounder.

Rice led off the bottom of the sixth and flied out in his first big-league at-bat. Pitching in the seventh, he yielded a one-out single to lead-off hitter Eddie Murphy, who stole second and then third, scoring on a throwing error by catcher John Henry. The run was unearned as Rice got Eddie Collins on a ground out to retire the side. Griffith pinch hit for Rice in bottom of the inning.  

Walter Johnson had started the game in right field for the injured Danny Moeller. Johnson, always a decent hitter, went 2-for-3 with a walk. He drove in the first Washington run and scored the second in what ended up as a 6-2 White Sox win.

Rice made three more pitching appearances, completing one of his two starts, in 1915. He went the distance, giving up two earned runs in beating Philadelphia on Sept. 7. That was his only decision. Over 18 innings, his earned-run average was 2.00. His control was bit shaky, however, walking nine batters. He managed three singles in eight plate appearances.

Rice played 19 seasons with Washington, switching to the outfielder after five more appearances on the mound in 1916. He finished with a .322 average, 13 hits short of 3,000. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963.

On Sept. 20, 1915, first baseman Joe Judge made his major league debut with Washington. By 1917, both he and Rice were regulars for the Nats and would play together for 18 seasons. Johnson, Rice and Judge helped lead Washington to a World Series triumph in 1924 and another A.L. pennant in 1925.

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