The Team That Forever Changed Baseball and America: The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers

By Lyle Spatz; Maurice Bouchard et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 17. Ray Blades

Russell Wolinsky

On April 9, 1947, the New York Post’s back-page headline screamed, “DUROCHER SUSPENDED FOR SEASON: BLADES LIKELY TO TAKE OVER JOB.”1 That Ray Blades, recently hired to replace Charlie Dressen as Durocher’s first lieutenant, would succeed the recently suspended Brooklyn manager seemed a reasonable supposition. After all, he had assumed the managerial reins when Durocher left the club’s spring training site for a few days in midMarch. A week later, Branch Rickey chose his old friend Burt Shotton as Durocher’s successor.

Blades too had a relationship with Rickey, one that dated back to 1919, when the Rickey-managed St. Louis Cardinals traveled to Mount Vernon, Illinois, for an exhibition game against the local semipro Carbuilders. Blades, a Mount Vernon native, was at second base for the home team. Francis Raymond Blades had been born there on August 6, 1896, one of eight children of Francis Marion and Mary Magdalene Blades.

The Cardinals, with Rogers Hornsby in the lineup, were beaten by the scrappy locals 2–1. Impressed by the Carbuilders’ high-quality play and hustle, Rickey immediately signed three of their players, including Blades, who was twenty-three years old and a veteran of the World War.

The switch-hitting Blades made his professional debut with Memphis of the Southern Association in 1920, and then he moved to Houston of the Texas League the following year. He remained with the Buffaloes for two seasons, where at the urging of Rickey he abandoned switch hitting and became a right-handed batter exclusively.

Ray Blades was expected by some in the media to replace
the suspended Leo Durocher as Brooklyn’s manager, but
he remained the team’s third base coach.

Blades was batting a league-leading .330 with Houston when the Cardinals called him up on August 18, 1922. He made his Major League debut the following afternoon at Sportsman’s Park, playing left field and batting sixth. He stroked a single in four at bats in an 8–7 Cardinals loss to Philadelphia. Playing thirty-seven games in his rookie sea

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