To readers of the agate type college football scores every fall it is known as "Miami (Fla.)" as opposed to "Miami (Ohio)." Really it should be called the University of Coral Gables because that pleasant suburb is where it is, not in Miami or even Miami Beach or Miami Springs. Miami's teams have been on the pleasant side, too. They have never won an NCAA championship—nor a championship in offshore powerboat racing or alligator wrestling, either. Oh, to be fair, there have been a couple of national titles in sports the NCAA does not control: women's golf in 1970 and 1972 and polo from 1948 to '51.
So it was with an extra charge of excitement last Saturday night that Miami's baseball team entered the final game of the College World Series in Omaha's Rosenblatt Municipal Stadium. Never before had Miami even made it out of its district tournament. Feelings ran so high that Pitcher Rick Floyd, who had flown home to Miami to be married Friday night, returned Saturday just in case he was needed in relief. Spending the first day of one's honeymoon in Omaha may be the ultimate in sacrifice and school spirit.
The trouble was that Miami was up against the University of Southern California, such a juggernaut in college baseball that it brings along its own organist every year to the world series. And two shapely bat girls. And a dozen or so major league prospects. All directed by well-to-do Los Angeles trucker Raoul (Rod) Dedeaux. The Trojans had won a record 54 NCAA championships in five sports (not counting five in football), nine of those titles coming in baseball, including the last four in a row. Which gave them a 54-0 edge in tradition over Miami.
"This is the biggest thing that's ever happened to us athletically," said Miami Coach Ron Fraser. "It's the closest we've ever been to a national championship. We're ahead of schedule getting a shot at it. I would have been happy with this in five years. We're the little kids on the block challenging the big guys."
True, but it was not as if USC was playing Coral Gables High School. Fraser himself has a well-deserved reputation for success. A 38-year-old New Jersey native who had a 9-1 pitching record his senior season at Florida State, he has been on a winning kick the past year or so. Last summer he coached the Dutch national team that beat Italy for the European baseball championship, and in November he coached the U.S. team to its first World Amateur baseball championship.
This is his 12th season at Miami and, while his winning percentage of .696 is excellent, only in the last couple of years has the school had enough baseball grants-in-aid to become a national contender. The Hurricanes came into the College World Series with a 48-9 record for an .842 percentage, far better than USC's .703, which was the lowest among the eight teams entered. Miami had a corps of talent from New York and New Jersey, but its most interesting players were "the family," four Cuban-Americans who add a dash of Latin spice to a lineup already ethnically blessed with a LoMedico, a Reichle, a Krenchicki and a D'Innocenzio.
The family consists of substitute In-fielder Jose Vega, Second Baseman Benny Castillo, Centerfielder Manny Trujillo and, best of all, First Baseman Orlando Gonzalez. Before the title game Gonzalez, a senior from Miami, was named the winner of the first Lefty Gomez Plate Award, which goes to the nation's best player in college, junior college or high school. Gonzalez was hitting .402 and had stolen 60 bases, but some people in Omaha felt the award should have gone to Trojan Third Baseman Rich Dauer, who had set NCAA season records for RBIs and total bases and was batting .390. Dauer was the first draft choice of the Baltimore Orioles. Gonzalez, because of a supposedly weak arm and lack of power, went late, in the 18th round, to Cleveland.
In the College World Series' double-elimination format Miami looked like the favorite after it defeated USC 7-3 early in the week. Then Southern Illinois, beaten by USC on Monday, came back Thursday to upset Miami 4-3. That meant there were three teams left, each with one loss. Representatives of the teams drew sealed envelopes to see which would get the bye, a free pass to the Saturday night final without having to use up any pitchers. Miami drew it.
"We don't have a lot of depth in pitching like these other teams have," said Fraser, "so we're getting a chance to go for the national championship with our best"—sophomore Stan Jakubowski from Union, N.J. (16-2, 1.36 ERA). USC beat Southern Illinois 7-2 Friday night and managed to do it with just one pitcher, Mark Barr, thus moving into the final in pretty good shape itself.
It would be nice to report that the Hurricanes then blew down the champs and won an NCAA trophy at last. But, no. USC's George Milke pitched well in relief, Dauer upped his record RBI total to 92 and organist Madeline Franks had lots of chances to play Fight On! Newlywed Floyd indeed was called upon in relief, a golden opportunity for USC's loud bench jockeys. And the Trojans won 7-3 for their fifth straight title and sixth in seven years.
Do not weep for Miami, though.
"They are newcomers as of now," said Southern Illinois Coach Itchy Jones, "but they are going to be as well known as Southern Cal and Arizona State. They will be a national power."