Ralph Raymond, first U.S. Olympic softball coach, dies at 94

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Ralph Raymond, the head coach of the first two U.S. Olympic softball teams that earned gold medals, died Tuesday at age 94, according to USA Softball.

Raymond was already considered the greatest coach in softball history before playing a key role in the sport’s Olympic debut in 1996.

He set USA Softball records with a 332-9 record and .974 winning percentage as head coach, including going 72-1 in winning five world championships from 1974 through 1994. He was inducted into the International Softball Hall of Fame in 1993.

Raymond was then a natural choice to be the first U.S. Olympic softball head coach for the Atlanta Games, where softball was played in nearby Columbus, Ga.

“Raymond was pivotal in the popularization of the sport of softball prior to the 1996 Olympic Games,” USA Softball said in a release. “Raymond’s impact on the game will endure due through some of the legends of the game he coached.”

He returned to guide the team through a turbulent Olympics at Sydney 2000. The U.S. bounced back from three straight losses to Australia, China and Japan to beat all three nations in the elimination rounds.

Softball returns to the Olympics in 2020 after being voted off the Olympic program after the 2008 Beijing Games.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.