The law and the Pirates

Bonnie Rice and Judge Walter Rice reminisce on their love of the Pirates

By Marc Katz

It never occurred to me to begin a sports column about Judge Walter Rice and his magistrate wife, Bonnie Beaman Rice, with a story about former Dragons third baseman Kevin Baderdeen.

Furthermore, I never thought the story would come from the wife, rather than the husband.

This all came about because I’m trying, in my little corner here, to commend the Rices, who are being honored at a Sunday, Dec. 3 luncheon at Beth Abraham Synagogue, at a donor event that will likely fill its seats with an overload of lawyers.

The Rices are being feted for their dedicated service not only to the synagogue, but also to the community as a whole. These people are involved.

Bonnie Rice’s list of organizations she helps has not grown much since her recent retirement because she and her husband have always been community oriented, and if you needed somebody to sit on a board or direct a fundraiser, these were, and are, the people to call.

It is well known among the judicial crowd that Walter Rice—a federal judge for the Southern District of Ohio [and, no, he’s not dead yet]—is such a huge Pittsburgh Pirates advocate, he has decorated his office in official—and unofficial—black and yellow paraphernalia, surrounded by a few law books.

He’s from Pittsburgh, and can’t seem to cut the cord.

Bonnie is from Dayton and wouldn’t know Roberto Clemente from Honus Wagner, but she sure remembers Baderdeen.

He was the first third baseman for the Dragons, back in 2000.

Bonnie’s one of the last persons on earth I would think knew that.

“We had season tickets back then,” Bonnie Rice says. “Our daughter Courtney (about 11 at the time) used to go to the games with us, and her favorite player was Baderdeen.”

Spoiler alert. Baderdeen was not a star of the team, but he was a good player who might have continued his career, had not a ball been hit behind him into left field one night.

All the Rices were there to see it, or at least they remembered the incident enough 18 years later. Baderdeen crashed into left fielder Adam Dunn, an ex-football player nearly 100 pounds heavier than him.

Dunn, of course, produced the most damage. While Dunn only broke his right thumb and had a cut over his right eye that took seven stitches, Baderdeen broke his right hand and his jaw.

This was unfortunate for Baderdeen, since he was told he wasn’t much of a prospect and was lucky to have the job he had, so he made the most out of one last opportunity. He was just starting to hit, too, but at the end of the season, after he returned for a few weeks of play, he was let go.

Dunn went on to have a fine major league career and is currently 35th on the all-time home run list.

But wait. That isn’t the end of the Baderdeen story. Courtney Rice wrote a note to her hero, wishing him a speedy recovery. He wasn’t there to receive it, of course—it was the day after the injury—so she handed it to another player.

Bonnie Rice thinks she handed it to Dunn. That means maybe it got to Baderdeen and maybe it didn’t.

But aren’t you amazed after 18 years, Bonnie Beaman Rice remembered Baderdeen’s name?

She has ability like that. After graduating from Colonel White High School and Indiana University, she didn’t know quite what she wanted to do until her brother suggested law school.

She had been working in real estate, but law seemed intriguing, so she enrolled at UD. One of her favorite teachers was Walter Rice, who had worked in a law office, became a Montgomery County prosecutor, and would go on to run for and win a Dayton Municipal Court judgeship. He also served as a Montgomery County Common Pleas Court judge before President Jimmy Carter nominated him for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

You get the point. He knows the law.

So does Bonnie. She worked in a large local law firm after graduation, took a couple years off, and was asked if she’d like to be a magistrate in Vandalia. She did that from 1992-2014.

Stacked against all this law knowledge is an affection for the Pirates that reaches to miniature replicas of Pittsburgh’s old Forbes Field and a poster of Walter Rice superimposed in a Pirates uniform in his office. There are signed baseballs everywhere, none, probably, from Jeff Sessions.

Bonnie Rice puts up with it and once asked me for some baseball reference books so she could learn more about the game.

I gave her a pile, and she dutifully worked through some of them. She figured out the Pirates weren’t going to the playoffs this year.

Walter Rice was in law school at Columbia when Bill Mazeroski hit the home run that beat the Yankees in the 1960 World Series. There is a long hallway dedicated to that event in Rice’s office.

As for his law work, he currently has Senior Status, which means his workload should diminish, but it hasn’t.

Now if the Pirates went back to the World Series, Walter Rice might miss a few days to celebrate and watch the games. Bonnie Rice would be right there with him.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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