Art Ray was one of the most respected umpires in Windsor baseball history. He officiated at all levels of hardball and softball in Windsor-Essex during the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, during which time he was also heavily involved with the Ontario Amateur Softball Association (OASA) for eighteen years.
Ray was born in Victory Mills, New York (near Albany) on July 28, 1903. He was the second oldest of 13 children.
Ray moved to Windsor as a young child in 1907. He attended St. Francis and St. Edmund Elementary Schools but joined the work force at the age of 13 in lieu of attending high school. He learned the tool and die trade at United Tool in Detroit before taking a job at Chrysler in Windsor. He worked for the automaker from 1938 to ’66, eventually becoming a foreman.
Ray enjoyed a historic career as a baseball umpire that began in 1930 and extended to ’57. Significantly, he was one of the founders of the Windsor Umpires’ Association, for which he later served as President for 20 years. Ray also founded and instructed at various umpiring schools for area officials. He served as President of the Ontario Umpires Association for three years in the 1930s, and was a longtime member of the OASA.
Within the OASA, Ray was at various times Chairman of the organization’s Rules Committee (for nine years), the District Convener, an Executive Committee member, and Vice-President. He was the recipient of an OASA Award for his contributions and sportsmanship. At the time, it was the only such award the organization had ever given out.
From 1971 to ’75, Ray served as Director for the Babe Ruth League, Western Ontario Region. He was the recipient of a Recognition Award from the Windsor & District Softball Association and was inducted into the Windsor Old Time Ballplayers Association Hall of Fame.
In 1940, Ray officiated as Stratford defeated Royal Windsor Garage in a Senior Ontario Baseball Association playoff series. “Art Ray is the best umpire we’ve had all year,” said a Stratford player on the record following the game.
Throughout his life, Ray demonstrated an avid interest in sports as a player, trainer, coach, and manager. He was a charter member of the Mic Mac Club (1919), where he played football, coached in baseball, and trained football and hockey teams. With Ray’s contributions, the football Mic Macs became undefeated Border Cities Champions in 1925, ’26, and ’27. The club’s hockey team won the OHA Senior “B” title in 1930-31 and ’32-33 and was a finalist in ’33-34. Mic Mac also claimed the OHA Intermediate title in 1931-32.
As a player, Ray was a member of the Auto Specialities and Steve Paris softball teams of the 1920s and ’30s. In baseball, he played as a catcher with the Windsor Athletics. On four occasions in the 1920s, Ray managed CYO Senior and Junior softball teams in the same season. In the 1940s, he was Manager/Coach of the Chrysler Spitfires hockey team, which competed in the Windsor City and Michigan-Ontario Leagues. He was also an excellent bowler in the local Chrysler and Classic Leagues, including as a member of the ’50 Bryant Pattern team, champion of the Crescent All-Star Classic League.
Ray passed away on February 25, 1990. “If a history of softball in Windsor is ever recorded, the name of Art Ray will clearly be emphasized,” said a Windsor Star writer on the occasion of his death. “Art was one of the true pioneers of the sport locally, not as a player, but as an umpire.”