Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Unhappy Coach Ray Blades

I've always been intrigued by this card....

....of Cubs coach Ray Blades.  He is one really unhappy looking guy.  And I have to confess that before I bought this card, he was a guy I had never heard of.  So who is Ray Blades?

An outfielder by trade, Blades was signed to his first professional contract by the Cardinals in 1920.  By August, 1922 he was in the majors.  His big league career spanned the years 1922 - 1932, though he spent 1929 in the minors.  He was a full-time players only two seasons, as a serious knee injury kept him from being a regular.  He was also known for his highly competitive nature and a quick temper.  Somehow, I think that comes through in the picture on the '54 card.

He served as a player-coach his last three major league seasons, knocked around the minors a couple seasons, and then spent three years managing AAA Rochester before being named the Cardinal's manager for the 1939 season.  One of his first acts as the new skipper was to ban drinking by his players. "My players won't be allowed to play cards or gamble for money they can't afford to lose," Blades said. 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. "

The Cardinals seemed to responded to their hard-nosed skipper, moving from sixth place to second place and winning 93 games.  But they got off to a slow start in 1940 and were back in sixth place with a record of 14-24 on June 7 when Blades got the ax. (great line, huh!!).

He would never lead a team again.  He spent time coaching with the Reds (1942), Dodgers (1947-1948), Cardinals (1950) and the Cubs (1953-1956).  

In addition to the '54 Topps card, I've got two others of Blade, both from the Conlon Collection...

...both featuring an intense looking player.

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