Baseball in Evansville

Stories From the Cutting Room Floor

Hank Raymonds – Who Knew?

Third in a series of basketball stars who also played baseball in Evansville, following Frank Schwitz and Clarence Kraft.

In March of 1948 the St. Louis University Billikens won the National Invitation Tournament college basketball crown at Madison Square Garden over NYU behind the play of “Easy” Ed Macauley, their All America big man. Arguments abound to this day as to whether the NIT was the more prestigious tournament over the NCAAs at that time. Before the NCAA Tournament, the NIT was king.

 Likely forgotten is the short baseball career of St. Louis University’s Hank Raymonds, a member of the St. Louis NIT champs of 1948. St. Louis native Raymonds joined the Evansville Braves shortly after the Billikens captured the NIT title game in New York. As a guard at SLU, he was named to the 1946 All-Missouri Valley Team and was the first four-time letter winner in school history. He also earned four letters in baseball between time off to serve during WWII. His hardball prowess drew the attention of professional scouts. So much so that the Boston Braves signed Raymonds to a contract and sent him to Evansville’s Class-B Three-I League team.

Raymonds (#10 on the left) watches as Easy Ed McCauley receives the NIT Outstanding Player Award

His stay in Evansville was short, but he played nearly every day. After a month with the E-Braves, Raymonds was dispatched to Class-D Richmond (IN) of the Ohio-Indiana League. He hit .263 in the 10 games for Evansville, but the organization felt he couldn’t hit Class-B pitching. He followed with a.256 batting average in 45 games at Richmond. After the baseball season, he finished his degree from SLU in January 1949. Then it was back to basketball for Hank.

Raymond’s first stop in his basketball coaching journey was at St. Louis University High School. As head coach, he won the 1952 “large schools” Missouri State Championship. After five years he was named head coach at Christian Brothers College (now University) in Memphis, Tennessee. From 1955 to 1961, his teams made two NAIA National Tournament appearances and posted a 110-50 overall record. His old coach at SLU, Eddie Hickey, hired Hank as an assistant at Marquette University in 1961, where Hickey was still head coach. Raymonds found a home and a legacy at the Milwaukee school. Hickey was fired in 1964, but his replacement wanted Hank to stay. Hickey’s replacement was Al McGuire.

Raymonds hugs fellow Marquette assistant coach Rick Majerus while a contemplative Al McGuire witness the end of his 1977 NCAA Championship victory of North Carolina. It was McGuire’s final game as a coach.

In 13 years as McGuire’s top assistant, Hank was widely known and perhaps the most famous assistant coach in the country. In their 13th year together, Marquette defeated Dean Smith’s North Carolina Tarheels for the National Championship. Afterwards McGuire stunned the nation again by retiring. Raymonds, the man McGuire referred to as “my coach,” replaced the icon. He also became the school’s Athletic Director. Coming in on the heels of McGuire, Raymonds continued the excellence at Marquette by taking them to five NCAA tournaments and one NIT in six years as coach. His overall record as coach was 126-50 when he retired after the 1983 season to become Marquette’s full time Athletic Director. He retired from that post in 1987, but Raymonds stayed involved with the school and community. He died in 2010 after a battle with cancer.

Who knew his professional baseball career started in Evansville? Who knew he had a professional baseball career?


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