Sam Byrd

Episode No. 119

Sam Byrd had a bright future ahead of him in baseball. A solid hitter and an even better outfielder, he had one huge issue facing him. He played for the New York Yankees and there was guy named Babe Ruth ahead of him. So, Byrd took his seat on the bench and patiently waited for an opportunity. When he got a chance to play, he did well. But never enough to supplant Ruth. In his spare time, Byrd not only worked to improve his game at the plate, but he also continued to refine his skills on the golf course. In fact, he was so good on the links, that guys like Ruth never stood a chance against him. Sam would enter a tournament, here and there, and win. He toyed with the idea of playing highly competitive golf on the PGA TOUR, but baseball paid the bills. When Sam finally got a chance on the diamond, he got hurt and when he returned he again had to take a seat on the bench. After trying to breakthrough with the Yankees for six years, Sam finally realized his dream of taking the field every day by virtue of a trade to the Cincinnati Reds. Now 27-years old, Sam was the team’s regular right fielder. He hit a respectable .262 with nine home runs and 52 RBI. But it wasn’t enough to earn the starting job the following season, 1936, and Sam once again found himself on the bench. At the end of the 1936 season, Sam was released by the Reds and claimed by the St. Louis Cardinals. However, Sam had had enough. All along, he continued to work on his golf game and decided to make the PGA TOUR his full time vocation (he actually joined the TOUR in 1933). What a great choice. Instead of riding the pine and playing second-fiddle in MLB, Sam walked the fairways with the likes of Hogan, Nelson and Snead. Over the course of a career that wound down in 1949, Sam won 11 times, finished as high as 3rd in The Masters (1941), 2nd in the PGA Championship and 16th in the U.S. Open. He won the Greater Greensboro Open, the Chicago Victory National Open and The Texas Open in 1945. A solid career as a professional golfer, Sam is the only person to have appeared in a baseball World Series and The Masters. Stephen Rice, who penned a terrific biography about SAM for the BioProject for SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) is on this episode of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes to talk about the great dual career of Samuel Byrd.


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