More Likely to Steal a Basketball than a Base

When Rickey Henderson took a base, it was almost a given that he wasn’t going to stop there. One batter that didn’t inspire fear on the basepaths was Del Rice, a perennial National League catcher. In nearly 1,300 career times on base he only managed to swipe two bags. Opposing managers thought they were better off intentionally walking Rice rather than having their pitching staff face off against his .237 career batting average. He was put on base in pitch-outs 5 times in 107 plate appearances in his final season. While seemingly futile, Rice’s plodding style of play worked for his teams: He ended his career with the same tally of World Series rings and stolen bases.

In addition to baseball, Rice was fairly decent at professional basketball. He played from 1945-1946 for the Rochester Royals, a forerunner of today’s NBA Sacramento Kings. Rice’s stats can be seen here at Basketball-Reference.

’52 Topps Card #100

My Del Rice card (shown above) is a wreck. It was acquired as part of a low-grade lot purchased on eBay. The target of the purchase was a grouping of semi-high numbers that had once been taped to a scrapbook. A previous owner must have removed the Rice card (along with chunks of the surface) and thought better about leaving the rest with undisturbed tape along the borders. This goes with the territory of collecting the set on a budget and I’m not complaining too much. The folds in his jersey make it look like Rice is decked out in a hoodie rather than a baseball uniform.

November 2023 Update: I picked up a much better looking example when a seller offered the option of adding additional low grade cards to an existing purchase with no shipping charges. While the condition of card #100 remains “poor” in my personal collection, I am very happy to have made the upgrade. The now extraneous duplicate will be mailed within the next few months as a surprise to a fellow low-grade collector of the set.

Follow Up Baseball Card: 1961 Topps

MLB expanded from 16 to 18 teams in 1961 with two new clubs that immediately took old names. The Washington Senators (now Texas Rangers) emerged for the second time. Los Angeles got its second team inside of four years as the Angels joined the American League, taking their name from a popular Pacific Coast League team that had recently decamped to Spokane.

Californians were happy to see the new team in old hats, but players weren’t as excited. Del Rice looks thrilled to be the Angels catcher in the team’s inaugural baseball card appearance. I don’t know exactly when he decided to retire from baseball, but I am 99% certain it happened as he was descending into this crouch.