Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


Carinsurancerates.com would like to thank all heroes for serving this great country.

Click here for details

Those Who Died That Others Might Be Free

 

World War II Hero of the Minor Leagues 

 

Ernie Raimondi

 

Date and Place of Birth: June 15, 1919 Oakland, California
Date and Place of Death: January 26, 1945 France
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Third Base
Rank: Private
Military Unit: 2nd Battalion, Company G, 324th Infantry Regiment, 44th Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

 

Baseball followers, city officials and long-time boosters of West Oakland's first baseball family, the Raimondi's, were on hand yesterday at old Bayview Park to dedicate the playground in the name of Ernie Raimondi, who was killed January 1945, while serving his country in Europe.

Oakland Tribune June 24, 1947

 

Ernest "Ernie" Raimondi was born on June 15, 1919 in Oakland, California. His parents, John and Josephine, were immigrants from Italy and raised seven children - Carmelo, William (Billy), Joseph (Joe), Albert (Al), Ernest (Ernie), Walter (Walt) and Lorraine.

 

The family home was located at Fifth and Brush in West Oakland. John Raimondi, a bootblack, was killed by a hit and run driver as he walked to the West Oakland train station in 1931. His wife, Josephine, was left to raise the family on her own. Josephine, who spoke only broken English, supported the family by working long hours at a cannery and also rented out the other side of the house they lived in. This meant that six brothers had to share two beds, while their sister, Lorraine, slept in the third bed with her mother. This arrangement remained the same until Lorraine married when she was 21.

 

Times were hard for the Raimondi's but one thing they never lacked was food. "My grandmother was a wonderful cook," explains Ernie's daughter, Penny Raimondi Isola. "Everything was homemade - even pasta. They were a very close family."

 

Ernie Raimondi attended Lowell Junior High School then McClymonds High School in Oakland. The family had already established a reputation as ball players with Billy catching for the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League since 1931 and Al pitching for the Mission Reds in the same league.

 

Ernie Raimondi (seated) with Bill Lillard (left) and Dom DiMaggio (right)

Ernie caused quite a stir by signing a contract with the San Francisco Seals at the age of 16 in 1936, his junior year in high school. The Seals assigned the young third baseman to their Texas League affiliate where he promptly broke his leg. The following year, fully recovered, he played for Tacoma in the Western International League where he led the circuit in hitting with a .339 average. In 1938, still with Tacoma, he again led the league in hitting. "Another potential big leaguer is Ernie Raimondi," wrote the Fresno Bee on March 6, 1939, "an 18 year old youngster playing third, whom the Seals farmed out to Tacoma last year. Graham [Charley Graham, owner of Seals] is confident Raimondi is ready and that he is a better ball player than Frankie Hawkins, who has gone to Portland."

 

Raimondi was with the Seals for 1939 and batted .271 in 77 games before being stricken with appendicitis and missing the last two months of the season. The Seals released Raimondi in May 1940 and he was signed by his hometown Oakland Oaks. Playing alongside brother, Billy, Ernie hit .274 in 67 games.

 

On November 20, 1940, Raimondi married his childhood sweetheart, Ellen Dowd. They had met in junior high, and Ernie and Ellen (who was born on the Mediterranean island of Gibraltar) married at St Mary's Church with Billy Raimondi acting as best man.

 

1941 didn't get off to a great start for the Raimondi's. Two months after their wedding the couple's apartment in Oakland was robbed. The burglar, who gained entrance via a fire escape while the couple were out, got away with $300 in cash, a radio, two suits, a hat, a pair of pants and one of Ellen's hat boxes to carry everything in!

 

Then, just a month in to the season, on May 5, batting just .216, Raimondi was released by the Oaks to make room on the roster for the big-hitting Mel Duezabou. Raimondi contemplated quitting baseball at the time, and rumours circulated in the local press that he would take a job with Fenton's Creamery in Oakland. But in June it was announced he would join the Oklahoma City Indians in the Texas League.

 

On April 19, 1944, Ellen Raimondi gave birth to the couple's only child, Penny. It was also the day Ernie received his induction papers from the Army. His military induction was on June 5, 1944 and within six months Private Raimondi was in France with the Second Battalion, Company G, 324th Infantry Regiment, 44th Infantry Division.

 

Bill and Ernie Raimondi

The 44th landed at Cherbourg, France on September 15, 1944, and trained for a month before entering combat on October 18, relieving the 79th Infantry Division in the vicinity of Foret de Parroy, east of Lunéville. The 44th took part in the Seventh Army's drive to secure the Vosges Mountains and was hit by many heavy and costly German counterattacks.

 

In November 1944, the 44th liberated Strasbourg and threw back three German attempts to cross the Blies River near Sarreguemines in December. The 44th continued to defend Sarreguemines in January 1945 and it was at this time, on January 9, that Private Ernest Raimondi was seriously wounded. He died from those wounds on January 26, 1945. Ernie Raimondi was buried at the American Military Cemetery in Epinal, France but his body was returned to Oakland in 1948.

 

Shortly after the news of Raimondi's tragic death reached Oakland, suggestions were put forward as to how best to memorialize the young ball player. "The suggestion has been made by Charlie Tye," wrote Lee Dunbar in the Oakland Tribune on February 20, 1945, "that a suitable memorial be erected to the memory of Ernie Raimondi, member of a well-known local baseball-playing family.

 

"Ernie, whose death on the European battlefields was announced recently in The Tribune, was identified with baseball in this vicinity from the time he was big enough to play until he entered the Army.

 

"I cannot think of a more suitable place for an Ernie Raimondi Memorial than at the Oakland ball park."

 

On March 2, 1945, Tye amended his suggestion. "From news I have received lately," he told The Tribune, "the post-war plans of the Oakland Recreation Department call for two new baseball diamonds in this city.

 

"I think one should be named Ernie Raimondi diamond, which will perpetuate his name and give the kids a chance to know of Raimondi's love of the game of baseball."

 

"I heartily endorse Charlie Tye's suggestion," Dunbar wrote.

 

On June 3, 1947, in line with the latter suggestion, the City of Oakland Board of Park Directors announced that Bayview Park was to be renamed "Ernie Raimondi Park."

 

The official opening celebration took place on June 28, 1947. "Baseball followers," wrote the Oakland Tribune on June 29, 1947, "city officials and long-time boosters of West Oakland's first baseball family, the Raimondi's, were on hand yesterday at old Bayview Park to dedicate the playground in the name of Ernie Raimondi, who was killed January 1945, while serving his country in Europe.

 

"Making the official dedication yesterday was Oakland's mayor, Herbert L Beach. Mayor Beach cited the significance of a family such as the Raimondi's to the city of Oakland. He said they were an inspiration to young ball players like the ones who play in 'Ernie Raimondi Park' today."

 

The event was attended by the entire Raimondi family, plus Brooks Holder and Ralph Buxton of the Oaks, and Bernie Uhalt, Hugh Luby, Francis Rosse, Neil Sheridan and Will Leonard of the Seals.

 

 

Ernie Raimondi Park continues to provide a playing ground for Oakland's youngsters. "The Park is still used by many future ball players," says Penny Raimondi Isola.

And now the park is going to receive a facelift. The Oakland Planning Commission has recently approved a $5million makeover, and there will be a dedication ceremony with surviving members of the Raimondi family – West Oakland’s first baseball family.

The new Ernie Raimondi Park

 

 

Special thanks to Penny Raimondi Isola for her invaluable help with this biography and photos of her father. Also thanks to Ronald Raimondi, Carole Raimondi, Brian R McDonald, Mark Macrae, Richard Wagner and Eric Turowski at the Alameda Sun.Minor League Baseball

 

 

Added September 9, 2006. Updated February 5, 2008.

 

Copyright © 2007 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.