MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Legendary University of Miami baseball coach Ron Fraser, know by many as “The Wizard of college baseball” has died at the age of 79.
Fraser died Sunday morning after fighting Alzheimer’s disease for many years, family spokesman Tony Segreto said.
In his 30 years with UM, Fraser amassed a 1,271-438-9 record at UM from 1963 through ‘92, at the time behind only the late Southern Cal’s Rod Dedeaux (1,332-571-11), according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.
Fraser’s legacy will be, as he once said, his penchant for “doing crazy things out there.” He raffled car batteries, hosted bikini nights, threw nine-course gourmet dinners on the Hurricanes’ infield, even is credited for helping bring batgirls into the college game. If any idea to drum up interest or money for his program came his way, Fraser wanted to make it happen.
But his finest moment may have come at the College World Series in 1982.
A few Hurricanes stuck fingers in their ears, the signal for the hidden-ball trick, known to this day as “The Grand Illusion.” Miami was leading 4-3 in the sixth inning of a winner’s bracket game in Omaha, Neb., and Wichita State’s Phil Stephenson was on first base. With his team down by a run, Stephenson was going to try to steal; everyone in the stadium knew this, especially since he already had swiped 86 bases that season.
So the play was called. Skip Bertman, Fraser’s associate coach at the time who went on to become a great at LSU, gave the signal. Mike Kasprzak was the Miami pitcher, and made a few throws over to first to get Stephenson’s attention.
Then came the moment. Kasprzak made another “throw” to first, one where Hurricanes’ first baseman Steve Lusby dove for the supposedly errant ball and, as the story goes, swore to further sell his displeasure. Several Hurricanes started chasing the “ball” along the right-field line, and others in the dugout pointed up the line excitedly, getting in on the act.
And what an act it was.
“He would teach the bat girls to scramble as if they were getting out of the way of it,” Florida State coach Mike Martin said Sunday. “They were sitting on a chair. He also had the bullpen and had a guy call it, ‘There’s the ball! Get out of the way!’ It was theatrics at its best.”
Sure was. Kasprzak tossed the ball — he had it the whole time — to second base, a stunned Stephenson was tagged out trying to advance, Miami won the game and went on to capture the national championship.
“We’ve had better teams,” Fraser said in the din of that championship celebration. “But never one with this much heart.”
Fraser took Miami to another national title in 1985, and wound up leading the Hurricanes to the College World Series 12 times over his 30 years at the school. He retire
Another of his storied moments occurred on Memorial Day, 1992 when his team was one defeat away from elimination in the NCAA baseball tournament which would have made it his last game.
Fraser delivered a pep talk to rally the team after they blew a 3-0 lead to North Carolina State and were tied, 4-4, in the eighth inning.
“What the hell are you guys doing to me?” Fraser pleaded. “Remember, if we lose this game, it’s over and I don’t get paid anymore! I want to play more because tomorrow’s a holiday, and I get paid time-and-a-half!”
The Canes rallied to victory and Fraser went to his 12th College World Series before retiring that summer.
Fraser is credited with transforming UM baseball from an afterthought to a national power house. He was also a key player in getting ESPN to broadcast college baseball
games which has become part of their rotation of spring sports.
“The impact he had on our university, on college baseball and on the game itself worldwide is immeasurable,” acting Miami athletic director Blake James said.
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