At the age of 17, while still in school, he signed with the Oaks for a starting salary of $150 a month. He was immediately optioned to the Oaks' Arizona-Texas League team in Phoenix, where he hit .304. After being traded to Bisbee, he came back to Oakland the following year, 1932, when the Arizona-Texas League folded. In 1932 he hit .281 in 42 games with the Oaks, and has been behind the plate for the Acorns ever since. He has caught 100 or more games in the 13 out of 14 seasons he has been with the Oaks and has been an All-Star 16 times.
He comes from a baseball family. Says the funniest play he ever saw was Joe Becker of the Seals stealing second, then turning around and stealing first, sliding into that base. Best year, 1946, Oakland, batted .300. Managed the Acorns part of ‘45. Believes it's mighty bad luck to cross bats or walk between the umpire and catcher. Also doesn't believe in walking under a ladder, particularly when a hod-carrier is climbing on it.
Raimondi came close to the majors after the 1935 season, when the Yankees exercised their option on his contract and sold him to the Reds. Because of a shoulder injury in Spring training, however, he was forced to sit out the 1936 season. He recovered and returned to Oakland in 1937. Oakland manager Bill Meyer said that, while Raimondi wasn't a great hitter, "he's so far ahead of the other catchers a manager would be silly to have anybody else catch for him." When Meyer moved to Kansas City the following year, he wanted to take Raimondi with him and promised he would move up to the New York Yankees in two years. Bill preferred to stay at home in Oakland and turned down the offer.
All tolled, Bill Raimondi played in 21 seasons over his career in the Pacific Coast League, longer than any other field player in the history of the League. The only player who appeared in more seasons anywhere was Herm Pillette, who set the minor league record by pitching in 23 seasons. Considering his slight build, and the fact that he played the most injury-prone position, Raimondi's fete is even more notable. As a regular catcher in his first 17 seasons, he caught an average of 131 games a year--158 in 1934.
Although 1942 was the only season he led the league in fielding, Billy Raimondi is regarded by many as the best catcher in the PCL. His hustling style of play, his dependability, ability to handle pitchers and affable personality have made him a PCL star and a crowd favorite around the league.
In 1937, Billy Raimondi did something that few, if any, other players have had the chance to do. In a game on April 8, Seattle led the Oaks 9 to 4 in the last of the eighth, when the game was called on account of rain. The Oaks protested because the umpire only waited 5 minutes, rather than the required 30 minutes before calling the came. Their protest was upheld and the game was resumed 97 days later, the next times the two teams met in Oakland on July 14. Five of the players who were in the lineup when the game started were no longer on the Oaks' roster. Therefore, Billy Raimondi and pitcher Ken Douglas were allowed to return to the lineup to substitute for two players no longer on the team, even though they had been previously replaced in the same game.
Billy's stint as manager of the Oaks came when manager Dolph Camilli left suddenly in mid-season. The team was fourth at 35 and 36 when he took over, and finished fifth. Under Billy they were 54 and 57. Many hoped he would keep the job, but the next season the Oaks hired Casey Stengel.
Billy started wearing glasses in 1941--difficult for a catcher because of the mask. To compensate, instead of throwing the mask off to catch fly balls, he leaves it on.
He worked as a laborer in the off season, and had no time for any hobbies. Personal preferences: movies, musicals and dramas; clothes, plain; food, Italian dishes; reading, sports stories; women, burnettes. Movie favorites: Gary Cooper, Sonja Heinie. Radio favorites: Charles McCarthy and Sophie Tucker.
Three other Raimondis--all Bill's brothers–have played for the Oaks. His younger brother Ernie played infield for the Seals in 1938-39, after batting .339 for Tacoma in 1937. He rotated at third base for the Oaks in 1940-41. In 1942, he joined the Army and was killed in action in World War II. Brother Al, a year younger than Ernie, pitched mainly as a reliever to Billy for the Oaks in 1944-45, after stints with the Missions in 1936-37, the Hollywood Stars in 1938, and the Portland Beavers. He was also a coach. Billy's youngest brother Walt started with the Oaks as a shortstop in 1943. He broke his ankle shortly after the War, and was optioned to Phoenix in 1947, where switched to pitching.
© 1997, 1998 William B. Shubb