‘‘Florida State University is proud to honor a former athlete who more recently has become a distinguished opponent,’’ read the text of his induction into that Hall of Fame in 1981. ‘‘A brilliant promoter and coach, he has advanced collegiate baseball at the University of Miami, across Florida and across the nation.’’
That’s how well thought of Fraser was: The Seminoles put an arch rival in their Hall of Fame.
‘‘Heck, he used to wash the baseballs in milk because he didn’t have enough money to buy the dozen or so baseballs he needed,’’ Martin said. ‘‘So, he'd wash them in milk and use it as a cleaner. ... He was a character. And, he really was a guy who shared his knowledge with younger coaches.
‘‘I'm going to miss him. He was a good man.’’
After a stint leading the Dutch national team, Fraser took over at Miami in 1963 with a $2,200 salary, a converted shower for an office and a cow pasture for a field. He got the school’s attention in most unconventional way — which seemed fitting for him. University officials said Sunday that Miami first noticed Fraser by his appearances on the television game show, ‘‘What’s My Line?’’
‘‘He was the person who put college baseball on the map — not only in the crowds and the entertainment we see today, but in the competitiveness of the game itself,’’ Miami trustee Paul DiMare said. ‘‘It was all him.’’
College baseball was not a revenue generating sport, even for successful programs, so Fraser got creative.
Giveaways, parachutists, whatever he could think of, it all was part of Fraser’s plan to entice more people to come see his team.
‘‘My whole thing was to entertain the people. People said it was the winning, but I was trying to entertain the people so they would come back,’’ Fraser said around the time his coaching career ended. ‘‘I did a lot of crazy things and it worked.’’
Attendance at Miami grew over a seven-year span from 33,000 a season to 90,000. And in 1981, the Hurricanes set a record with 163,261 fans — over 3,200 per game. Attendance dipped below 100,000 only once for the remainder of Fraser’s tenure.
After eight straight winning seasons to start off his tenure at Miami, the Hurricanes finally broke through with the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1971. In 1982, the Hurricanes swept through five games in Omaha, clinching the school’s first national title with a 9-3 win over Wichita State.
Three seasons later, the Hurricanes won their second championship, beating Texas twice in three days for the 1985 crown. That team finished with a school record 64 wins.
And to think — Fraser’s run at Miami almost didn’t get started.
With the athletic department in dire straits in the early 1970s, the school elected to cut one program. Football was lousy, basketball was worse and baseball — though far more successful than the others — didn’t make money.
‘‘We were going to have to let one of them go,’’ Fraser said.
He fully expected baseball to be the program that got cut. So in a last-ditch effort, Fraser called in some favors. Baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial (who died at 92 on Saturday, one day before Fraser), major league broadcaster Joe Garagiola and other notables showed up at a beach benefit banquet that impressed the school. In 1972, the university dropped basketball instead of baseball.
Fraser made the move pay off, finally leading Miami to its first College World Series appearance in 1974.
‘‘Coach Fraser had a tremendous impact on the baseball program at the University of Miami at a pivotal time in our history,’’ Miami President Donna Shalala said. ‘‘His love of the sport and the program can still be felt, years after this legendary tenure at ‘The U.'’’
Fraser is a former NCAA coach of the year and coached numerous U.S. national teams — including the 1992 Olympic team, and went on to work with many community and charity organizations in his retirement.
Miami officials said he had three children and five grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
‘‘On the field and off, Ron Fraser showed how one man can make a difference,’’ James said. ‘‘The University of Miami, South Florida and college baseball are all better because of him.’’
AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker, AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. and former Associated Press Writer Jeff Price contributed to this report.