He first gained some baseball knowledge working for Hall of Famer Bill Terry for the Giants. He used that style of no nonsense that worked for years with Terry. After he moved around from the Dodgers to the Giants to the Phillies, he was traded to the Atlanta Crackers where I mentioned he spent the next 7 seasons. From 1938-1942, Richards served as a player-manager and only returned to the big leagues because there was a shortage of players due to World War II. When he played for the Tigers, he was an unofficial coach and was trusted to run the pitching staff of the team- something he did very well. After he was finished playing for the Tigers in 1946, he stuck around in the minors as a player- manager for the Buffalo Bisons for the next 3 seasons.
One of the things that made Richards very successful early was how he relied on pitching, defense and base stealing (small ball) to defeat teams that relied solely on the home run. He became the manager of the Chicago White Sox in 1951 and led them to 4 consecutive winning seasons. His last two seasons in Chicago saw him win 89 and 91 wins before he took the job as manager and GM of the Baltimore Orioles. He kept his philosophy of pitching and defense and after Lee McPhail was hired as GM, the team started to have a little success. After the Orioles won 89 games in 1960, he led the 1961 team to a 78-57 record before he resigned to take the job as GM of the expansion Houston Colt 45s. His time in Houston lasted until he was let go by an impatient owner in 1965. He would then become the GM of the Atlanta Braves- ironically with the Atlanta Crackers in the 1930s was where he got his first taste of leading a baseball team.
About 6 months ago, I had the chance to speak with Joe Durham, a talented OF in the Orioles chain during the time Richards was there. Durham put up great numbers in AAA from 1958-1962 and never got a call up with the Orioles. Race could very well have been the motivation for Durham not getting a chance to play in the big leagues. Durham had the tools Richards was looking for. He had speed, played good defense and could play small ball.
Later on, Richards took over the 1976 White Sox, his first time in that organization since 1954 when he last managed them. His philosophy of using the pitchers with the best fastballs in the starting rotation made him look silly as guys like Goose Gossage and Terry Forster were clearly not starting pitchers. In addition, reliever Pete Vukovich would become a very good starting pitcher after Richards was mercied after the 1976 season. It was safe to say Richards, despite his successes, was a very stubborn man who refused to change his ways. What he learned in the 1930s, he used until his death in 1986. The game of baseball has changed very much since that time. Many good executives have made adjustments of their philosophies over time, something Richards simply refused to do. Even so, he deserves the credit for being one of the first small ball managers- a guy who preached the philosophy before the likes of Gene Mauch and Billy Martin.