Lawyer lived life as winner
John Frazer is remembered as a father, a lawyer, and a coach whose teams earned ribbons, trophies and a trip to the Little League World Series.
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
Published September 12, 2006
DUNEDIN - John Paul Frazer, a Dunedin lawyer who in 1991 coached a group of local boys all the way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., died Thursday (Sept. 7, 2006) after a long battle with progressive supranuclear palsy. He was 62.
Mr. Frazer, the father of four sons and a founding partner in the Dunedin law firm of Frazer, Hubbard, Brandt, Trask & Yacavone, was known for his winning ways.
"His teams were always top-notch teams," said Bob Gibson, District 12 Little League administrator, who knew Mr. Frazer for 22 years. "They played well, they won their fair share of ribbons, trophies and flags, I'll tell you that. Always, always."
But above all, Mr. Frazer was known as this type of coach: Someone who players respected. Someone who loved to teach kids. And an analytical man who used everyone on the team because he thought baseball could turn boys into men.
"If you looked at John's records of how many innings the 13, 14 kids played, they all played approximately the same amount of innings," Gibson said. "Which was good, because that meant every kid got the opportunity to play. That's what Little League is about, and that's what John was about."
That 1991 team, the Dunedin National All-Stars, ripped through local and regional championships and placed sixth in the World Series in Williamsport. It was the first time in 43 years that a Pinellas County team had made it that far. And though this year the Dunedin Little Leaguers came close, no local team has gone to the World Series since.
That year the boys lost, 3-2, to the Dominican Republic in their final game. They were sad, understandably.
"I've been around Little League for a number of years," Mr. Frazer told them afterward, "and whatever happens from now, I know that you guys are the best."
On Monday, Pete Nystrom remembered those words. At the time, he was 12 and played outfield.
"It really came from the heart, and that was truly how he felt," said Nystrom, now 27. "He was proud of us and all that we accomplished."
Mr. Frazer's youngest son, Jay, also played on the 1991 team, and by his own account, was not the best guy on the roster, and did not get special treatment from his dad. Jay did not start every game in that tournament and respected his father for it.
Mr. Frazer was practical, and not a "fanciful dreamer," added Jay Frazer, 27. Even so, "he knew in his heart he'd coach a team up there."
The World Series was a highlight in his father's life.
"On the other hand, that was one of many successes in his life," said Jay Frazer, now a physician assistant in San Francisco. "He was a successful and ethical attorney in a day and age where being an ethical attorney is an oxymoron."
Mr. Frazer grew up in St. Petersburg with little money and didn't get the best grades at Northeast High School, said his son Jay. But he went on to St. Petersburg Junior College, then Florida State University, and ultimately graduated from Stetson Law School.
In 1973, Mr. Frazer started a law firm in Dunedin with his canoeing buddy, John Hubbard.
Mr. Frazer was an expert in hospital law, representing Mease Hospital as his main client, said Hubbard, Dunedin's city attorney. At one point he also was a municipal judge for Oldsmar and Safety Harbor, Hubbard said, and briefly represented the latter town as its city manager.
"I practice with pretty good people, but John was at the top of the ethical scale and competency scale," Hubbard said Monday. "He was an excellent friend. A person who was absolutely, totally reliable. ... A lawyer who really cared about his clients, which isn't always the case."
In 1992, the Dunedin Historical Society honored Mr. Frazer as a "Historymaker" for leading the '91 Little League team to the Holy Grail of youth sports and summertime dreams.
Mr. Frazer also was a former president of the Rotary Club and the Dunedin High School Basketball Boosters, and served with Leadership Pinellas and other civic committees and advisory boards. But his involvement in every facet of the local Little League stood out.
In 2003, the Dunedin City Commission voted unanimously to rename Fisher Field One, the main baseball field in the town's Little League complex, after Mr. John Frazer.
"He was really one of the strong advocates for fundraising for the league, and stabilizing the league," Vice Mayor Dave Eggers said Monday. "He was very committed to youth sports and young people, which I think is a wonderful legacy."
And on the field, added Eggers, whose teams sometimes competed against Mr. Frazer's: "He was a competitor like the rest of us."
Mr. Frazer outlived medical expectations after being diagnosed with a terminal brain disease in 2003, said ex-wife Sherry Frazer-Conte, who cared for him till his death.
Doctors gave him a year to live.
"He fought hard," Frazer-Conte said. "He was a good man, a very good man."
Mr. Frazer also was obsessed with Florida State football, say loved ones. They played reruns of wins and losses on his TV in the Dunedin Assisted Living Facility, even though he had lost much of his eyesight. Mr. Frazer, in addition, was a Civil War buff. His favorite movie was the baseball classic The Natural.
Along with Frazer-Conte and son Jay, Mr. Frazer is survived by sons Dr. J. Kimble Frazer of Salt Lake City, Randall P. Frazer of Jacksonville, and Ryan S. Frazer of Dunedin; and grandchildren Kristen, Toby, Cara and Daniel Paul Frazer.
A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Dunedin, where Mr. Frazer was a member. In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations be made to the Dunedin Historical Society.