Card: 2009 ObakTristar #49
Eugene Rudolph Rye [Half-Pint] (b. November 15, 1906 in Chicago, IL – d. January 21, 1980 in Park Ridge, IL) was an American left fielder in Major League Baseball who played for the Boston Red Sox during the 1931 season. Gene batted left-handed and threw right-handed. His birth name was Eugene Rudolph Mercantelli, the son of Amedeo Menotti Mercantelli (1866-1950) and Daria "Dora" Frediani (1867-1920). They had married in Italy in 1888 and arrived in the U.S. later the same year.
Gene’s brother, William Mercantelli, played minor-league ball from 1919 through 1933. It was Bill Rye who first began to use the name Rye. The explanation? “It seems he was of dark complexion…and the fellows called him "Rye Bread"…and when he started playing he called himself William Rye. By the time Gene was ready for baseball, Bill had established himself by the name, so Gene just adopted it from his brother.”
The Dallas Morning News acknowledged him as a “fine outfielder, possessor of a powerful arm and a distance clouter.” In 1930, Rye hit 26 homers and .367. On opening day and once more during the season, he hit three home runs in a game; both times off three different pitchers.
On August 6, 1930, Gene set a record for professional baseball by hitting three home runs in the same inning at Katy Park in Waco. He accomplished the feat against the Beaumont Exporters in what ended up being an eighteen-run 8th inning and a 20-7 victory. His progression was solo homer, two-run homer, grand slam. It is, understandably, a baseball record that still stands.
When the dust had cleared, Rye had set four Organized Baseball records for one inning: most total bases (12), most extra bases (9), most runs batted in (8), and most home runs (3). Only the 8 RBI mark has been matched during the following 50 years when Ken Myers of Las Vegas hit two grand slam home runs in one inning in a Sunset League game during the 1947 season.
It’s not surprising that there was a bit of a bidding war for his services at the big-league level. On September 16, the Boston Herald reported that Rye would be joining the Boston Red Sox. The paper said he was “modeled along the lines of Hack Wilson,” in terms of his physical build.
Used as a pinch hitter by Boston, Gene also shared duties at left field with Al Van Camp and Jack Rothrock. In a 17-game career, he posted a .179 batting average (7-for-39) with three runs and one run batted in with no extra-base hits. In 10 outfield appearances, he had 10 putouts and committed an error for a .944 fielding percentage.
When he was 29 years old he finished his professional baseball career after the 1936 season.
Gene Rye is part of the Born in Chicago Tour – Next Stop
Gene is also part of the Boston Red Sox Player Tour – Go to the Next Stop
“Half Pint” is part of the Great Italian American Player Nicknames Tour – Go to the Next Stop
See all Gene’s baseball cards at TCDB
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