|Former big league
pitcher Ed Blake dies in Swansea
Had a memorable career in minors
BY NORM SANDERS - News-Democrat
Friday, Apil 17, 2009
Former major league pitcher Ed Blake, who grew up in East St. Louis and played for the Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Athletics, died Wednesday at Rosewood Care Center in Swansea after a long illness.
Blake was 83. He is survived by his close companion of 10 years, Belleville alderman Catherine Kreher, son Ed Blake Jr. and his wife Irene, and a daughter, Peggy Gleeson, of Houston, Texas. He also is survived by his sister, Maxine St. John, of Orlando, Fla., and six grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Carol Jean Blake, as well as his parents, Edward and Katherine Blake.
Visitation is from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday at George Renner and Sons Funeral Home in Belleville. Additional visitation is from 9 to 10 a.m. Monday at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Belleville, followed by a funeral Mass at 10 a.m.
The family asked that memorials be made toward the completion of Whitey Herzog Field in Belleville through the Belleville Parks and Recreation Department.
"He just had lost so much weight, but he hung in there and was a tough guy," Kreher said. "The past three weeks he went down really fast."
While he went on to pitch in 15 professional seasons, mostly in the high minor leagues, Blake got a special thrill as a teenager during the 1943 World Series in St. Louis.
"He always said the highlight of his baseball career was pitching batting practice in the 1943 World Series for the Cardinals when he was 17 years old and fresh out of high school," Kreher said. "He said that was truly the most memorable moment. He always took time to greet people and share a baseball story with them."
Blake was signed by the Cardinals in 1944 and compiled a 5-6 minor-league pitching record before entering the U.S. Army during World War II.
He served as an infantryman and was wounded in the Philippines, which kept him out of baseball until spring training in 1946.
After three straight losses with Columbus, he won 13 in a row and finished the season 16-8. It took him five more minor-league seasons until he reached the majors in 1951 with the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds picked up Blake in a 1949 trade with the Cardinals for Mike Schultz.
In six major-league games during his career with the Reds and Kansas City Athletics from 1951-53 and in 1957, Blake was 0-0 with a 6.23 ERA. He pitched a total of eight innings.
"He always enjoyed talking about his time in baseball and very much enjoyed people who wanted to talk to him about it," said daughter Peggy Gleeson, who got to watch her father pitch in the minors. "There's still stacks of envelopes and letters and cards from people wanting autographs, they're everywhere. He really enjoyed that part of it."
Blake was 148-126 in 15 minor-league seasons, including 124 victories at the Class AAA level. One of his favorite minor-league stops was Toronto, where he picked up 66 victories from 1954-58.
In 2007, Blake and Kreher traveled to Canada and finished the trip in Toronto. They were surprised when their tour guide remembered Blake playing there in the minor leagues.
The guide returned to the hotel the next day with scrapbooks and clippings from Blake's career in the city.
"After that on our tour, Eddie was like an instant celebrity because other people didn't know he was a baseball guy," Kreher said. "That was just amazing. To see that people appreciated what he had done after all of those years was just amazing."
As a youngster, he was a teammate of former New York Yankees great Hank Bauer at Central Catholic High in East St. Louis.
After his playing career ended, Blake spent nearly 50 years in the plumbing business and was a past president of Plumbers Local 360.
Blake's son, Ed Blake Jr., also was a talented baseball player who spent three years in the minor leagues from 1970-73 after being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles. He is a Belleville attorney with Blake & Allen, P.C.
His grandson, Edward "Jay" Blake III, is a junior pitcher at John Burroughs High in St. Louis. Following in his father and grandfather's footsteps, he is 2-0 this spring with a 1.00 ERA.