Inducted in 2005
National League All-Star
Claude Raymond grew up playing baseball in his hometown of St. Jean, Quebec. While a batboy in the Quebec Provincial League in the 1940s, he dreamed of playing professional baseball. Little did he know that he was eventually going to realize that dream so close to home. In the early 1950s, he was pitching for St. Jean in the Quebec Provincial League when major-league scouts began to show interest in him. Eventually, he signed with the Milwaukee Braves and pitched in their farm systems from 1955 to 1958. Then he was drafted out of the Braves' organization by the Chicago White Sox. Raymond impressed the White Sox so much in spring training that he was included on the 1959 opening-day roster and appeared in his first major-league game on April 15th at Chicago's Comiskey Park against the Kansas City Athletics. However, his stay in the big leagues was brief. He was sent back to the minors in May and, in 1959, was returned to the Braves. It was during the 1960s that Raymond established himself as one of the best of baseball's newest breed of specialized player: the relief pitcher. He briefly returned to the major leagues in 1961 with a stint in Milwaukee. He started 1962 as a member of the International League's Toronto Maple Leafs but was called up for good by the Braves mid-way through the season. At the end of the 1963 season, Raymond was drafted by the Houston Colt-45s from Milwaukee. He spent the next three-and-a-half seasons in Houston and pitched some of the best baseball of his career. His earned-run average was below 3.00 in both 1964 and 1965. By the middle of 1966, he had the best ERA of any pitcher in the National League and was selected to represent Houston in the All-Star Game, an honour that he still considers one of the highlights of his career. Following a June 1967 trade, Raymond returned to the Braves, which were now located in Atlanta, and compiled a respectable sub-3.00 ERA over the next season-and-a-half. Canada's first major league baseball franchise, the Montreal Expos, began play in the 1969 season. On May 16th of that year, the Atlanta Braves visited Montreal's Jarry Park and Raymond was called upon to snuff out an Expos' rally. The crowd of 20,872 gave the Quebecois star a standing ovation and Raymond found himself crying on the mound, unable to pitch. He wound up as the winning pitcher that night, and later that year the story came full circle. In August, the first-place Braves sold Raymond to the last-place Expos. He would miss the playoffs, but it was a homecoming nonetheless. Raymond finished 1969 with the Expos and pitched two more seasons for the club, recording 23 saves in 1970, fourth-best in the National League. After his playing days were over, Raymond continued his association with baseball and the Expos. He spent the next 30 years working as a commentator on both the Expos' radio and television broadcasts. As well, he continued to administer the Fonds Claude Raymond, a charitable foundation that he started in 1971, which raises money for sports, cultural, and education projects in his hometown of St. Jean. Raymond is also a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.