Rick Adams: Lamar County’s First Big Leaguer

Well over 800 native Texans have played Major League Baseball in the last 125 years. Lamar County stakes claim to one of the earliest, southpaw pitcher Rick Adams of the Washington Senators. Born in the area northeast of Paris in 1878, Reuben Alexander Adams grew up and lived most of his life on the family farm, learning the game of baseball on a crude diamond at Adam’s Hill (near the current Paris Country Club). Coming of age, Rick left Paris temporarily for Palestine and the railroad business, where he caught on with a local semi-pro team. Longtime Texas Leaguer Mike O’Connor, then managing a team in Tacoma, Washington, convinced Adams to try his hand at professional ball and carried the youngster to the Pacific Northwest League. Adams impressed in his 1901 professional debut, striking out 13 Seattle batters. The next season, he was back in Paris, pitching for his hometown’s Texas League franchise.

Between 1902 and 1905, Rick Adams won 58 minor league games in the Texas, Southern, and Eastern Leagues, including a stint with the New York Yankees minor league affiliate in Montreal. In July, 1905, while boasting a 13-3 record with the Temple Boll Weevils, the American League’s Washington Senators called. Adams finished the second half of the season with Washington, posting a 2-5 record in 11 appearances with 25 strikeouts and an earned run average of 3.59. Despite a memorable strikeout of Detroit Tiger Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, his mediocre performance on the mound and .174 batting average didn’t impress major league scouts. The following season he signed with the new Texas League franchise in Cleburne under manager and fellow Paris native Ben Shelton. With Cleburne, Adams posted his best professional season, winning 25 games, including a 14-inning two hitter and a no-hitter against Waco. The Cleburne pitching tandem of Adams and Walt “Hickory” Dickson remains one of the greatest in Texas League history, leading Cleburne to the championship during the city’s only season in the league.

In 1907, Adams once again left Texas, playing four seasons with Denver of the Western League. His skills beginning to falter, and Adams returned to Texas in 1911, eventually finishing his 13-year professional career with Denison in the Texas-Oklahoma League. Baseball records credit Adams with a .593 winning percentage in 242 career professional games. While he excelled on the mound, he never rose above average as a hitter, batting .240 in the minors. Powerless at the plate, 91% of his hits fell for singles.

Following his professional career, Rick Adams returned to Paris where he lived out his life on his family’s property. For a number of years, he remained involved in local baseball, coaching several sandlot, semi-pro, and American Legion teams. By the 1950s, Adams spent most of his time helping out around the old Paris Golf Club where his son Jimmy served as club pro. Rick died unexpectedly of a heart attack March 10, 1955, in Paris. Today, the only symbol of Rick Adams as a Texas major league baseball pioneer is the simple outline of a baseball bat on his grave marker in Providence Cemetery.

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