Raymond Vincent Borleske, who starred at Whitman from 1906 to 1910, is regarded as possibly the best athlete to ever grace the playing fields of the college. As a running back, fierce defender and kicker in football, Borleske was a fixture on all-Northwest Conference teams. As a baseball player, he pitched, caught and played third base. Later in life, in a Whitman coaching career that spanned more than three decades, Borleske led his alma mater to a total of 17 conference championships in football, baseball and basketball.
As an athlete, Borleske left his biggest mark in football, where he served as Whitman's captain in his final two seasons. Boosted by lavish praise from opposing coaches, Borleske became the first athlete from the western U.S. to receive Honorable Mention All-America recognition from Walter Camp's Spaulding Football Guide. Bill Martin, also a member of Whitman's Athletic Hall of Fame, played alongside Borleske before transferring to Notre Dame, where he competed against more highly publicized athletes, including the legendary Jim Thorpe. "Thorpe is generally considered the greatest back of all time," Martin said, "but there wasn't a thing he could do that (Borleske) couldn't do as well or better." In his final football game, against Washington State, Borleske returned a fumble 85 yards for Whitman's only score, knocking down five would-be tacklers in the process.
Borleske also captained the baseball teams in his junior and senior seasons, leading Whitman to back-to-back second-place finishes in Northwest collegiate baseball. As a junior in a twinbill against Washington State, Borleske tripled home two runs to spark one triumph and then pitched Whitman to victory in the nightcap. He finished that season as the winning pitcher in one of the games against Idaho, striking out 12 while giving up just three hits. As a senior, Borleske twirled a two-hitter in his final game, pitching Whitman to a 6-1 victory over Washington State.
A graduate of Spokane, Wash., High School, Borleske was a natural leader at Whitman, both on the field and off. He served as president of the junior class and then held the same position with the associated student government in his final year. For most of his college career, Borleske also worked as an assistant instructor in mathematics at Whitman's academy, or preparatory school.
After completing his law degree at the University of Oregon Law School, Borleske answered a call from Whitman President Stephen Penrose and returned to campus in 1915 as football, baseball and basketball coach. He led his alma mater to conference football titles in 1921, 1928, 1930 and 1931, but he enjoyed his greatest coaching success in baseball. Borleske directed Whitman to 10 Northwest Conference baseball crowns, amassing an impressive won-loss record of 530-368. His basketball teams also savored a strong run, winning seven conference titles in one 12-year span.
After retiring from coaching in 1947, Borleske served two terms as mayor of Walla Walla, finding time to coach an American Legion baseball team during his second term. Borleske Stadium is named in his honor, as well as the Borleske Trophy awarded annually to the top male athlete at Whitman. Borleske is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame and was the first inductee to the Washington Sports Hall of Fame. Borleske died on Jan. 2, 1957, six days before his 70th birthday.Back to main news release