Old Newspaper Clippings

Contributed by Emily Swanson.  Thanks, Emily!

Pub: St. Louis Star-Times, 1938

Ray Blades to Set Up 'Honor System,' Bar All Drinking in Carrying Out Rickey Policies as Cardinal Manager


Card Games for Coin
Also to Be Prohibited
Under Threat of Fines

New Leader, Given Start by Redbird Generalissimo in School Days, 
Nearly Kicked Self out of Organization.

by Ray Gillespie
of the St. Louis Star-Times

Raymond Francis Blades, about as sharp as any baseball man Prof. Branch Rickey has tutored through the Cardinal chain, is taking over his duties as Redbird manager with definite plans ahead.  Having been thoroughly schooled in the Rickey method of managing while in charge of the St. Louis National League club's farm teams at Columbus, O., and Rochester, N. Y., Blades is going to make the 1939 Cardinals a "Rickey club."

"I am going to install the honor system on the 1939 Cardinals," Blades said, while discussing his plans for handling his new assignment.  (Rickey was a great advocate of the honor system.)  "There will be no beer or liquor drinking by my players."  (This is decidedly a Rickey point and possibly the one big time with which he differed in the managerial plans of Frankie Frisch, late Cardinal manager, who permitted his players to drink beer, but not whiskey.)

"My players won't be allowed to play cards or gamble for money they can't afford to lose," Blades continued.  (Definitely a Rickey idea.  Branch never did approve of card-playing or gambling among the players.)

"And if any of my boys breaks my 'honor system' or fails to carry out my orders," the new manager added, "there's only one way to make them respect me and do as I tell them. That's to fine 'em.  Of course, I don't
 want to take anybody's money, but sometimes this becomes necessary."  (Another Rickey theory to procure discipline at all times, on and off the field.)

Outspoken, explosive at times, yet a man who studies his answers carefully before making them.  Blades, refused to pull a punch in discussing his baseball past and future.  A fiery figure in professional ball since he signed his first contract with Memphis of the Southern Association in 1920, the Cardinals' new field leader let it be known that, while he isn't as tough as he has been pictured in reports of his skirmishes in the minors, he won't be pushed around by players or umpires while master-minding the Redbirds.

Wants to Get Along With Umps But He'll Argue the Close Ones

"I am not as bad as I've been painted, with regard to my troubles with umpires." remarked the leading citizen of McLeansboro, Ill.  "I'll admit that I've been banished from games a number of times for arguing with the umps, but that's a part of a manager's duties. 

However, I've gotten over a lot of that and I don't intend to bother National League umpires.  That doesn't mean, though, that they can give my club the worst of the close ones.  I'm going to keep those fellows on their toes, just like I'm going to keep my players on their toes.  But I don't want to get put out of any games unless I'm forced to go to that extent in battling for my club."

Blades wasn't so sure that he'd like to pattern himself after any other big league manager, unless it might be the late John McGraw of the New York Giants.

"Still," the Cards' boss went on, "I played under a lot of managers myself and I regard Mr. Rickey, who was piloting the Cardinals when I first joined them, as the smartest man I played under.  Rog Hornsby was the best manager under whom I played."

Throughout Blades' conversation, he brought Rickey into the picture.  It was 'way back in 1913 when their paths first crossed.  That was the afternoon out at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, when Blades was pitching for the Franz Siegel grammar school team in a game for the St. Louis city championship and Rickey, then affiliated with the Browns as business manager, was umpiring.  They struck up a war friendship in that game and it was six years later--after Blades had completed his work at McKinley High, St. Louis, and McLeansboro and later had gone overseas and fought with the 119th Field Artillery, 32nd Division, in the Argonne--when they met again.

"After I returned from the war," Blades explained, "I played semi-pro ball with Fairfield, Ill.  The Cardinals came out to play us an exhibition game and who was manager of the team but my old friend, Branch Rickey!  

He had changed from the Browns to the Cardinals and, of course, I welcomed him warmly.  After that game, he signed me, along with Walter Schultz and Jimmy McLaughlin, for the Cardinals."

"Terrible Temper, but Great Leader," Branch Rickey's Tribute to New Pilot"

Always a great favorite with the Cardinals' front office, there were times when Ray almost kicked himself out of the Redbird organization.  Let Rickey tell about this:

"A great baseball man is Ray Blades," Branch told the writer just after Ray had been named to succeed Frisch.  "A fighter: yes.  With a terrible temper; yes.  But a great leaders; yes.  The baseball writers at Columbus and Rochester tell me Ray has lost some of his temperament, but he hasn't lost any of his baseball cunning."

Rickey then told of the day Blades, peeved over some move in the Cardinal plans that sent him away from the parent club, marched into the office where Rickey and President Sam Breadon were in conference.

"He spared no language in telling Mr. Breadon and me just what he thought of us," Rickey chuckled.  "Yes, I've seldom heard such language.  He kicked the furniture and threatened to rip up Mr. Breadon's private office as he verbally tore us apart for what he thought was an unjust move.  Naturally, those sort of things don't set well with a club president, but somehow, we ironed the situation out and maybe, after all, it was for the best.  For Blades remained in our organization and today he has the job that all people in our organization consider 'tops'."

Of course, Ray isn't wholly unappreciative of the fact that the guiding hand of Rickey was behind his every moved during his managerial days in the minors.

"I attribute whatever success I have had as a manager," Blades admitted, "to the fact that I have had exceptionally fine players to work with.  Naturally, Mr. Rickey provided me with them, so again I can thank him for helping me.  After all, when you've got fellows who know how to play ball and want to win on your ball club, you don't have a lot of trouble winning."

This, incidentally, was the type of player Blades, himself represented when he was an active member of the Cardinals from 1922 through 1928 and during the 1920-;31 and '32 seasons.  He'd break a leg or perhaps break an opponent's leg to win games.  He knew no obstacles, not even the hooting and booing of the home fans in St. Louis, who, for some reason, took a strange dislike to Ray and showed it with their heckling.

Always a Ball Player's Player,
He Tried So Hard He Hurt Self

Cardinal teammates never could understand this, for they always considered Ray "a ball player's ball player," one who'd deliver when the blue chips were down and a real tough hombre was out there on the mound.  Often you'd hear fellow-players curse and swear when the fans' boos for Blades would reach their ears.  In direct contrast, Blades claims he never heard those hecklers.  He probably was too busy on the field--scowling at an opposing pitcher, racing after a long fly or tearing down the paths for an extra base--to pay any attention to what the fans thought of him.

In fact, it was one of these valiant tries that eventually led to Blades' undoing as a major league outfielder.  While chasing a fly ball one day, Ray crashed into the outfield wall at Sportsman Park, suffered a knee injury and never was able to regain the speed that previously had stamped him as one of the Redbirds' most colorful and fastest players.  He was shunted off to the minors, brought back, then finally returned to the American Association in the role of manager.

A great student of the game, the new Cardinal manager would spend many of his idle hours, back in the days when he wore Redbird livery, arguing good and bad baseball, in hotel lobbies or on trains, with his teammates.  At the height of the arguments, you'd hear Blades' voice over the others.  Once in awhile you'd even hear Blades admit that the other fellow's views were right, while his own were wrong, giving you the idea that, after all, Ray was a pretty big man, for, as the old saying goes, "it takes a pretty big man to admit his own mistakes."

In his playing days, Blades' closest friends would tell you that Ray was his own worst enemy.  Whenever he did anything wrong, such as arguing with an umpire or being put out of a game, he'd sit for hours at a time, brooding and thinking about the incident.  Often, when aroused out of one of these "comas," Blades would rise, kick a chair and call himself a name you won't find in the dictionary "for doing the wrong thing."

As A Minor League Manager

Many times this little scene followed a tough game when Ray failed to come through with a hit, or struck out in the pinch.

Considers Keystone Set-up Toughest Problem on Cards

Blades is married and resides at McLeansboro, Ill.  During the off-season he spends much of his time hunting, though he plans to devote most of the current winter to his new baseball job, which will necessitate many trips to St. Louis for conferences with Rickey and Breadon, relative to trades and deals intended to strengthen the 1939 Cardinals.

"I'd like to use Jimmy Brown at short," he explained, "but he had a bad arm last summer and it remains to be seen if he will be okay in the spring.  At second base, well, I don't know what we'll do there.  But one thing I know for sure.  Out in right field, you'll see one of the best youngsters in the business playing regularly for the Cards.  He's Enos Slaughter, a bench-warmer through most of the 1938 season.  I saw him down South last spring and I know what he can do."

Aside from these remarks, Blades had little to say about his next year's club.  He wasn't so sure about Mickey Owen as his first-string catcher, because he hadn't seen the young man perform.  Don Gutteridge at third base, Johnny Mize at first, Joe Medwick and Terry Moore in the outfield and the pitching staff appear okay, Ray added.

The winter meetings?  Yes, the new Cardinal chieftain plans to attend them, meet all his brother-managers in the National League, and he may even to a step further and shake hands with a few umpires if he can find any of them loitering about in the hotel lobbies.

The press? Yes, Blades has even found friends among the writers and is about to make a booster out of one of his severest critics.  The latter, A St. Louis sports editor, was at odds with Blades for at least ten years, but soon after Ray signed as Cardinal manager, the peace pipe was smoked and the past was forgotten.  Ray was advised by the sports editor to "quit reading the newspapers if you're going to resent criticism when it's coming to you."  To which Ray replied: "I can read the papers, for I've learned to 'take it'."

Forty-two years old Blades was born at Mt. Vernon, Ill., August 6, 1896.  Tow years later his family moved to McLeansboro and in 1909, they changed their residence to St. Louis.  Ray went to grammar school and completed part of his high school education in the Mount City, before his family moved back to McLeansboro in 1915.  Before leaving St. Louis, however, Blades got a taste of baseball with municipal teams.

In January, 1918, Blades took a job with the Emerson Electric Company in St. Louis.  In May of the same year, he quit his job, enlisted in the army and was sent to Jefferson Barracks.  A week later he was transferred to Camp Jackson at Columbia, S. C., and then finally to Camp Merritt, New Jersey.  On August 1, he sailed for Europe, landed in Liverpool, August 11, and from there was sent to Le Havre, France.  As a member of the 119th Field Artillery, 32nd Division, he fought in the Argonne offensive until the Armistice was signed.  He returned to St. Louis May 15, 1919.

Ray began his professional diamond career with Memphis in 1920, was shipped to Houston in the Texas League in 1921 and, after spending part of the next year with the Buffaloes, was recalled by the Cardinals, with whom he remained until the close of the 1928 season.  In 1929 he played with Houston and Rochester, the Cards' farm club in the International League.  Back with the Cares in 1930, he remained with the Birds until the close of 1932.

After that, Ray managed Columbus in the American Association for three years and followed up with three more years as manager at Rochester.  It was because of his success as a minor league farm pilot, together with the fact that he so closely fits Rickey's ideas as a field leader, that he was rewarded with the managership of the Cardinal club.  Players who have played under him are to a man agreed he will make good.

From: Felty's Legacy of Kin, p. 1105:
From: Times-Leader; pub. May 24, 1979
Francis Raymond Blades was born August 6, 1898 at Mt. Vernon; d. May 18. 1979, at hospital in Lincoln -- resident of Mt. Vernon; son of Francis Marion & Mary Magdalen Donaldson Blades.  Married Golda Marie Bennett-dead.  Married Ruth Daley Wright, 1970.  Leaves wife; step-dau; Mrs. Jack Means of Mason City; tow brothers: Gilbert Blades of Carmi & Leland Blades of McLeansboro. One brother dead; four sisters dead.  Buried at IOOF Cemetery, McLeansboro, IL.

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