Del Rice – Quality Back-up Catcher

Rice was drafted for World War II but never served as he didn’t meet the physical for entrance to the military.

cardinals debut

He made his major league debut with the Cardinals on 2 May, 1945 at the age of 22 and soon he was being sent to the major because the Cardinals had sold Walker Cooper, their star catcher.

learned his craft

When Rice got to the club he was designated to primarily be the back-up catcher for veteran Ken O’Dea, who had a ton more experience. It was O’Dea that tutored Rice concerning the nuances of major league catching.

personal catcher for harry brecheen

Rice posted a .261 batting average in 83 games as the Cardinals and was known as a defensive catcher rather than offensive. Then is 1946 he became backup for Joe Garagiola except when Harry Brecheen was on the mound.

world series

In the 1946 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, Rice caught all three of Brecheen’s victories, as the Cardinals defeated the Red Sox in seven games. He was also the hitting standout in Game 2, with a single, a double and a walk, scoring two runs in the Cardinals’ 3-0 victory.

regular for first time

In 1947, Rice caught the majority of the team’s games and guided the Cardinals’ pitching staff to the lowest team earned run average and the most strikeouts in the National League, as the Cardinals finished in second place. His pitch-calling skills were made evident once again in 1949, leading the Cardinals’ pitching staff to the lowest team earned run average in the league, as the Cardinals once again finished in second place, one game behind the Dodgers. 

best season in 1952

Rice had his best season in 1952, posting a .259 batting average along with 11 home runs and a career-high 65 runs batted in. He also led National League catchers in games played, putouts, assists and in baserunners caught stealing.  

injury cost him spot

The following season, Rice was named as a reserve player for the National League team in the 1953 All-Star Game, although an injury kept him from participating in the game.  Rice was injured during a game against the Dodgers on 7 June, 1954 when Roy Campanella stole home and spiked Rice’s leg. While he was sidelined with the injury, his replacement, Bill Sarni hit for a .300 average for the remainder of the season. 


In the middle of the 1955 season, the 32-year-old Rice was traded to the Milwaukee Braves.

a Peek at his numbers

He played for the Cardinals for 12 seasons.

  • 1038 Games
  • 756 Hits
  • 153 doubles
  • 17 triples
  • 60 home runs
  • 373 RBI’s
  • .241 batting average
  • named to All Star team in 1953

New York Times Obituary