Sunday, February 16, 2014

Claude Raymond (#166)

Since October, I’ve been playing catch-up with the teams that haven’t been represented as much as others on my blogs. On the 1968 blog, all teams have at least 4 posts except the Braves…until now.

Claude Raymond had a 12-year career (1959, 1961-71) as a relief pitcher. In 449 games, he only made 7 starts – all in 1965 for the Astros. A French-Canadian from Quebec, he would play his final 2 ½ seasons with the fledgling Montreal Expos, becoming the ultimate hometown favorite.

Raymond was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1955 and played in their farm system from 1955 to 1962. His minor-league stint was briefly interrupted when the White Sox selected him in the Rule 5 draft in December 1958. He began the 1959 season on the White Sox roster, but after pitching in 3 games, he was returned to the Braves in May.

Claude split the 1961 and 1962 seasons between Milwaukee and triple-A, then played the entire 1963 season with the Braves. Raymond was drafted by the Houston Colt .45s in October 1963 in a “special draft”. (A few months ago, I read somewhere that the Colt .45s and Mets were allowed to select additional players after their 2nd year, in an attempt to beef up their struggling rosters.)

For 3 ½ seasons, Raymond labored in Houston’s bullpen, along with veterans Jim Owens and Hal Woodeshick. In 1966, Claude advanced to the closer’s spot, leading the team with 16 saves.

In June 1967, he was returned to the Braves in exchange for pitcher Wade Blasingame (not that one). In his only full season with the Braves (1968) he collected 10 saves, 2nd-most on the staff.

Raymond was sold to the expansion Expos in August 1969, and immediately became a fan favorite, due to his French-Canadian heritage. He led the staff with 23 saves in 1970, but in his final season (1971) he took a back seat to Mike Marshall.

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