Metro Legends Award
Ray Cliffe has been involved in amateur football as a high school and college player, coach and official for 71 years. He also played and coached professional football with the St. Louis Knights of the Central States Conference in 1953-1954. However, Ray is probably best noted for his tenure in the St. Louis area public school system where he tutored high school youngsters not only in football, but baseball, boxing, wrestling, soccer and swimming from 1948 through 1992. All the while, he was teaching history or art at various schools.
Raymond Daniel Cliffe, Jr. grew up in St. Louis and attended Cleveland High School where he was was a standout guard earning first-team all-district honors in 1942. After attending Drake University for a year, he transferred to the University of Missouri where he played football while earning a double-major degree in art and history. He was also a lineman on Mizzou’s 1946 football squad which played in the Cotton Bowl against the famed Bobby Layne led University of Texas Longhorns.
He began his career as the athletic director of the Boonville Missouri Reform School before being hired as a teacher and assistant football and baseball coach at St. Louis Country Day School. Ray began making his presence known in the Public High League in 1950 when he was hired as the head baseball and swimming coach and assistant football coach at Soldan High School. He didn’t get his first head football coaching position until 1952 when he was chosen to coach at Central High School. There, he led the Redwings to a 5-4 record in his first season. Central’s best record since 1929. At the same time, Ray’s desire to play football never wavered. In 1953, he joined the St. Louis Knights semi-pro team as a player and line coach helping them capture the Central States Conference championship both that season and again in 1954.
While he loved playing the game, his desire to coach also remained strong. In 1955, he was hired as head football and baseball coach at Cleveland High School. He also taught art and history. It was at Cleveland that Cliffe earned his greatest fame as a coach. In fact, he will be inducted into the inaugural class of the school’s Hall of Fame in 2011. For the next 20 years under Cliffe’s guidance, the Dutchman football team posted a 107-66-13 record which included three Public High League championships and two undefeated seasons. He also coached the Dutchmen baseball team to two PHL titles. Cliffe also kept busy during the offseason of those two sports by coaching soccer, wrestling and swimming at Cleveland. In 1984, Cliffe transferred to Southwest High School where he was named head of the art department. He also coached baseball at Southwest, but satisfied his desire to continue coaching football by assisting at Affton High School from 1982-1992. During that span, Affton won six Suburban East titles.
During his coaching and officiating careers, Ray earned many awards and honors, including inductions into the Missouri State and St. Louis Football Halls of Fame and the St. Louis Amateur Baseball and Officials Association Halls of Fame. Cliffe also received the coveted Bob Broeg Award in 2006 and was a recipient of the Don Faurot Man of the Year Award in 2007.
In addition to his work as a coach and teacher, Cliffe honed his skills as an artist. His affection for art began when he was 11 as he created Easter and Christmas decorations for a local newspaper. He has painted more than 100 landscapes and portraits, painted murals at eight different locations, was the original artist for Tilles Park Holiday Scenery and sold several paintings to the Bevo Mill restaurant.