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Updated: January 23, 2013
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Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2013 by Marco Stoovelaar

Hall of Famer, former coach Ron Fraser passed away


...Ron Fraser...
(1933 - 2013)
(© Photo: USA Baseball)

WESTON, Florida (USA) - Ron Fraser, the longtime baseball coach of the University of Miami and former manager of the Dutch National Baseball Team in the 60s and 70s, has passed away on Sunday, January 20 after battling Alzheimer's disease for several years. While Mr. Fraser's age was not mentioned in a statement by his family, he was 79 years old, as Ronald George Fraser was born on June 25, 1933 in Nutley, New Jersey. Besides his coaching abilities, Fraser was also known for his activities off the field in promoting college baseball and baseball in general.

A visitation will be held from 10 AM to 6 PM on January 27 at Stanfill Funeral Homes in Miami. A funeral mass will be held at 10 AM on January 28 at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Southwest Ranches. The burial will be a private ceremony for the family in his hometown of Nutley, New Jersey.

Ron Fraser was born and raised in Nutley (New Jersey), then was a relief pitcher in 1954-1956 for the baseball-team of Florida State University. Some years later, he went into the army and was stationed in then-West Germany and the Netherlands. In 1958, he was the manager of the American European Army Team in Germany and was approached to coach the German National Team. ,,But I was coaching the military team, but offered to help them'', Ron Fraser said in an interview with the webmaster of Grand Slam * Stats & News in 1996. ,,I got an OK from the European Commander and so , I coached the army-team in the morning, then helicopted to another field en did a practice with the German players.'' After the European Championships of that year in Dutch capital Amsterdam (won by the Dutch), he got into contact with officials from the Dutch Baseball Federation.

Fraser in the interview with Marco Stoovelaar: ,,Several letters went sent, which even reached the White House. A letter was sent to Ford Frick, then the Baseball Commissioner, who had contacts with Richard Nixon, then vice-president of Dwight Eisenhower. Nixon was very interested in international sports and so I flew to Washington, met Nixon and we talked about baseball in Europe. Nixon contacted several consulates and the next moment, I was on my way in an plane to Amsterdam. That happened to be a delivery flight of a McDonnell-Douglas plane to the KLM. We flew at low altitude above Amsterdam and thousands of people were waiting at the airport. Wow, they very much like baseball overhere, I thought. It took 45 minutes before they had found me.''

And so, in 1960, Ron Fraser became the first American coach to lead the Dutch National Baseball Team. Fraser led the Orange squad in 1960, 1961 and 1962, being assisted by Charles Urbanus (Sr.) in these years. In his first year at the helm in the Netherlands, Fraser led the team to the European Championship-title in Barcelona (Spain). In 1961, the Dutch Team traveled to Grand Rapids (Michigan) for a series of games against the Sullivans, which since 1963 later became a popular participant in the Haarlem Baseball Week. Later that year, he led the Dutch in the first-ever Haarlem Baseball Week, finishing in fourth place. During the event, Fraser inserted himself one time as a pinch-hitter. In 1962, in Amsterdam, the Dutch Team captured another European title under the leadership of Fraser. ''Three great years. I've worked with a lot of pleasure in the Netherlands and have the most respect for the enthusiasm of the people who put in a lot of hours'', Fraser said in the 1996 interview. ,,I've had a great time in Europe and I have a 'love affair' with the Netherlands. What I always will remember of the DUtch people is their enormous enthousiasm.''

A famous story dates from his first period in the Netherlands. During the first practice session of the Dutch Team, Fraser decided to view how to do a proper slide. In doing so, Fraser broke his leg and was on crutches for several weeks, but recovered in time for the European Championship. Amongst the players playing in the Dutch Team in this period were Herman Beidschat, Rob Hoffmann, Jan Smidt, Ruud Zijlstra, Joop Geurts, Simon Heemskerk, Henk Keulemans, Leo Kops, Han Urbanus, Simon Arrindell and Nol Houtkamp.

After his third year in the Netherlands, Fraser returned to the States and became the Head Coach of the Hurricanes, the baseball-team of the University of Florida. It was the start of not only a longtime affiliation with this school, but also the start of a very successful coaching career. Fraser led the Hurricanes for 30 years (1963-1992) and never had a losing season. In his 30 seasons with the team, Fraser won 1271 games, lost 438 and nine ended in a tie. At one moment, he was the winningest active coach in the NCAA and when he retired, he was third on the all-time list with victories.

Ron Fraser returned to coach the Dutch Team in 1972 and 1973, between two college-seasons. In 1972, he participated with the team in the Haarlem Baseball Week and in 1973, another European title was won when the event was held in Haarlem (Netherlands).

Fraser came back to the Netherlands for a third time in 1980 when he participated with the Miami Hurricanes in the Haarlem Baseball Week and won the event. His final stay in the Netherlands came in 1986 when he attended the World Championship.

After the 1992 college-season, his 30th with Miami, Fraser announced his retirement. He officially retired as a coach later that year after leading Team USA during the Olympic Games in Barcelona (Spain) when baseball was an official medal game for the first time. Earlier, Fraser was a member of the coaching staff of the National American Team during the Pan American Games in 1987.

...Ron Fraser with Earl Weaver...
(© Photo: University of Miami Media Relations)
During his stay in Miami, Fraser led the team to 12 College World Series, which was won in 1982 and 1985. Fraser was named Coach of the Year 26 times and was the NCAA Coach of the Year four times. His uniform number 1 was retired on April 24, 1993. The building that houses the baseball offices on the campus of Miami was renamed Ron Fraser Building. After his retirement, Fraser remained a frequent visitor of games of the Hurricanes. Several of his players reached the Major League, including Mike Pagliarulo, Neal Heaton, Alex Fernandes, Greg Vaughn, Jim Abbott, Robin Ventura, Ed Sprague and Frank Thomas.

Besides coaching, Fraser was very active in promoting college baseball and launched several ideas to attract spectators. He organized raffles, bikini nights, nine-course meals on the infield, introduced bat-girls and giveaways on special days. In the early 70s, baseball might be dropped from the program of Miami, but Fraser then organized a beach benefit banquet, inviting several of his friends, including St. Louis Cardinals-great Stan Musial, who sadly passed away last Saturday at age 92. Ted Williams, the legendary player of the Boston Red Sox, also was a regular guest in Miami. Fraser's friends also included Earl Weaver, the wellknown Manager of the Baltimore Orioles, who also passed away last Saturday at age 82. The banquet was successful, as baseball remained on the program and basketball was dropped instead in 1972.

Ron Fraser was very driven and his promotional activities led to the Miami Hurricanes becoming the most known college-team in the country. Attendance grew and in 1973, a stadium was built, largely through the efforts of Fraser. And in 1974, the Hurricanes qualified for its first College World Series. Fraser also used his influence and promotional abilities to get college-baseball on national television and succeeded in doing so with ESPN broadcasting games. Nowadays, ESPN broadcast several games and the College World Series live.

Fraser, who was nicknamed 'Wizard of College Baseball', had many friends in baseball worldwide, including George Steinbrenner, the longtime owner of the New York Yankees. At one moment, he was offered a coaching job with the Yankees (and later the San Francisco Giants), but Fraser refused. In the 1996 interview, Fraser stated: ,,My place was in college-baseball, I like to teach young kids.''

In 1962, his last season of his first stint in the Netherlands, Ron Fraser donated a trophy 'to the most promising youthful baseball player in the Netherlands'. The trophy has been handed out annually since then and included several players, who later also had successful careers, including Ben de Brouwer, Nol Beenders, Win Remmerswaal, Charles Urbanus Jr., Haitze de Vries, Eric de Vries, Robert Eenhoorn, Rikkert Faneyte, Ralph Milliard, Raymond Hofer, Evert-Jan 't Hoen, Michael Duursma, Sidney de Jong, Vince Rooi, Greg Halman and Nick Urbanus. 14 of the recipients of this award went on to play professionally. From them, Remmerswaal, Eenhoorn, Faneyte, Milliard and Halman reached the Major League.

For his many contributions to Dutch baseball, where he also was involved in several promotional activities, Ron Fraser was elected into the Dutch Baseball and Softball Hall of Fame on July 13, 1985. It is one of ten Halls of Fame in which Fraser has been inducted.

Through this, Ron's many Dutch baseballfrieds offer their condolences to his family and wishes them lots of strength.

Here, it is possible to leave your thoughts of Ron Fraser on a guestbook hosted by the New York Times

(January 23)

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