CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- How many times do you see an entirely left-handed hitting lineup? That's what Ron Fraser used to help the United States win the 1973 world amateur title in Nicaragua -- against an 18-year-old right-hander named Dennis Martinez.
"I needed a gimmick," recalls Fraser, now the U.S. Olympic baseball coach. "You didn't see any left-handed pitchers in international baseball in those days. I took a shot."
It nearly backfired, but in the 10th inning, with the score 0-0, the United States loaded the bases on a walk and two bunts. With two outs, the Nicaraguan manager summoned the only left-hander on his staff to replace Martinez.
"The guy we feared the most," Fraser says.
The guy who threw four straight balls.
United States 1, Nicaragua 0.
"Ron Fraser has never forgotten that -- he always tells me, 'That guy should have left you in there, you were doing a great job,' " Martinez says, chuckling.
"I can never forget that day also," says Martinez, a former Oriole who is now with the Montreal Expos. "It was one of the highlights of my amateur career. Since then, Ron Fraser's name has always been up here. That game gave me incentive, knowing I pitched against that man."
It was the United States' first amateur title. The trophy still sits prominently in Fraser's office at the University of Miami.
"That thing must weigh 187 pounds," Fraser says. "Mexican gold. Italian marble. A big, heavy trophy."
As for the game itself, Fraser says, "Boy, what a ballgame, holy cow. I always kid Dennis about it. He says, 'Coach Fraser, the left-handers!' He gets a kick out of it."