• RIP Paul Blair

    Posted by on December 27th, 2013 · Comments (12)

    The sad news via Roch Kubatko last night:

    I have the unfortunate task of passing along news that former Orioles center fielder Paul Blair died tonight.

    From what I understand, Blair collapsed in a Pikesville bowling alley. He was 69.

    Blair played his first 13 seasons with the Orioles and was part of the 1966, ’69, ’70 and ’71 World Series teams. He won two titles with the Orioles and two more with the Yankees.

    Blair won eight Gold Gloves and was named to the American League’s All-Star team in 1969 and 1973. His final season came in 1980 with the Yankees.

    Blair, who won seven straight Gold Gloves from 1969-75, was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1984.

    It was Blair’s home run in Game 3 of the 1966 World Series that accounted for all the scoring in the Orioles’ 1-0 victory over the Dodgers. They went on to complete the sweep for their first world championship.

    Paul Blair was the greatest fielding center fielder of all-time. Sixty-nine is too young. This is very sad. He was, without question, a great baseball man. And, he will be missed.

    Paul-Blair
    Paul Blair and Son, 1966

    Comments on RIP Paul Blair

    1. Scout
      December 27th, 2013 | 9:42 am

      Much too young. The man flashed some SERIOUS leather in his day. They didn’t come any better out there in cneter field.

    2. December 27th, 2013 | 10:17 am

      I will always remember the story that our “#15″ shared on Paul:

      Blair’s at his first day at minor league ball and the manager tells the players to go to their positions. Blair was a SS at the time and looks over and sees there are 5 guys trotting out to short. He sees one guy kind of loafing his way out to right field and thinks to himself… “I can beat that guy.” That’s how “Motormouth” became an outfielder.

      He won eight Gold Gloves in CF. Only 13 OF in MLB history have won 8+ GG. (Granted, the award did not start until 1957.

    3. #15
      December 27th, 2013 | 11:36 am

      Steve et al…

      I jumped the gun with a post before you started this thread… please indulge me in a repost under the RIP Paul Blair heading..

      Guys…
      Going to hijack this thread… Lost a good friend last night in Paul Blair. I’ve known him for more than a dozen years and had the great opportunity to play baseball in the Yankee Fantasy Camp tournaments where he coached our team many times. Paul was a gentleman, a great ball player, a natural coach, and a very competitive, but always under control, guy… A 1/2 dozen of us gravitated to playing for him for those reason and never looked back. We’ve won the tournament 5 years in a row and in 6 of the last 7 years. For all but one of those, when Paul had a heart issue right before the 2009 camp, Paul lead our team. We first got to play for him in 2001… and, yes, we won it that year too. It didn’t occur to us until years later that we could start asking for him as our coach. We were set to tee it up for him again in Tampa in a few weeks and I swapped texts with him right before Christmas; both saying how much we were looking forward to seeing each other and having the core of the team back for another year.

      Paul really knew the game. I once asked Mickey Rivers who taught him the most about the game… “Paul Blair.” Paul certainly deserved his nickname… great story teller and just about always got the last word.

      Paul talked openly about how lucky he was to have had a chance to be a Yankee, even after all those great years with Baltimore. Although things changed a bit for the better in the last few years, Paul was always disappointed that the Orioles failed to embrace the legacy of their winning teams like the Yankees did. “Because I played for the Yankees for two years… I don’t have to work for a living. There is always a card show, or a signing, or a camp for me to be at.”

      RIP Skip.

      There won’t be a dry eye on our bench come January.

    4. December 27th, 2013 | 12:26 pm

      It’s hard to communicate to younger fans how good an outfielder Paul Blair was. If you ever saw film of the Willie Mays catch from the 54 World Series, imagine someone making plays like that all the time. I can’t tell you how many times he killed Yankee rallies with spectacular catches. Phil Rizzuto was doing play by play a few times, most here remember how excited he would get, then imagine him calling a bases clearing double only to have to slam on the verbal brakes as Blair made the play. Paul use to play shallow stealing singles all the time. He was one of my favorite players, I would have loved the Yankees to have had him in his prime. Paul Blair, God rest his soul.

    5. kenclay
      December 27th, 2013 | 12:57 pm

      In addition to being a class act all the way as #15 points out, Blair had series of clutch hits for the Yankees in his limited playing time. He started the winning rally in the 9th inning of game 5 of the 77 ALCS with a single (after barely playing all year vs righties it came against a very tough Dennis Leonard), then he won game 1 of the World Series with an extra inning hit.
      In ’78 his 8th inning leadoff single in game 4 led to him scoring the tying run and the Yanks won it in extra innings.
      He also had some regular season game winners in both years.

    6. #15
      December 27th, 2013 | 1:49 pm

      More…

      Couple of years ago, we were beating a duck team, 15-2′ish. We were getting thin on players and Paul asked me to move from catcher to right field to cover for an injured player. Paul had us playing shallow to cut off cheap hits. Big lefty batter hits a bomb over my head that one hops the wall. Held ‘em to a double and he didn’t score. As I’m coming off the field I said something to the effect… “Man, I didn’t have a chance on that one.” Paul’s dry reply… “Don’t worry about it. There’s only one guy on this team that could have caught that one… and I’m not putting on my cleats. Heh, heh, heh.” Paul did love to laugh at his own humor.

      2007 Camp, first time back with Paul since 2001 and the first of the 6 out of 7 rings in a row we won with Paul. Paul goes into the coaches locker room on the lunch break after the first game and proceeds to tell all the other Legends… “You’re all playing for second place… Because my guys catch the ball.” Everyone was gunning for us after that. We ran the table. Paul gathers us around on the field after the final win and tells us that he’d been talking smack since Day 1… That he was proud of us… and that… “Now we can go talk some shit. Heh, heh, heh.”

      One more story… Jan. 2103 Camp. We (Paul’s team) are 6-0 heading into the last two games (recognize that we are on a 28 game winning streak over 5 years and routinely hated by the other competitive former Yankee players that are coaching the other 9 teams). We’d already beaten Roy White and Homer Bush’s squad and given them their only loss, and we’d gone to Lakeland to play the Tigers camp and beaten their only undefeated team. Mike Torrez thought he had a team that could take us. They were also undefeated, but we weren’t supposed to play his team in the original schedule and we had ‘em on the runs allowed tie breaker. The only way they could win was for Mike to manipulate the system to force a schedule change and a head to head game… which he did. There were some less than good natured barbs in the hotel lobby that morning. Mike was getting pretty loud and stormed off. Remember… these two guys won a WS together in ’77. Both teams had to win their AM games, which we did. Set up a winner take all finale. Paul was his usual cool self. Told us to just play our game. We won 6-4. Paul was all quiet smiles for the next two days. After we picked up our trophies Paul’s comment… “This year the juggled the schedule to make sure they got to play us. Next year they’ll juggle the schedule to make sure they don’t have to play us. Heh, heh, heh.”

      Favorite PB phrase… I used it for years coaching my daughter’s softball squads… “How do we spell fun? W-I-N.” The girls loved it. Some of the parents… not so much.

    7. redbug
      December 27th, 2013 | 5:59 pm

      Thanks for the great posts, #15.

    8. December 27th, 2013 | 6:22 pm

      Great post on FB today by Marty Appel:

      Talking about Paul Blair with Steve Lenox on MLB.com earlier – long story I didn’t have time for, but Paul Blair was released by the Yankees in April 1979. A month later signed with the Reds. He was in Cincinnati when Thurman Munson died – came up to Canton for the funeral, and he was the one lending comfort and support for a grieving Billy Martin at that event. A lot of ex-teammates came to Canton that day. Odd that he was the one Billy leaned on.

    9. Mr. October
      December 27th, 2013 | 9:15 pm

      redbug wrote:

      Thanks for the great posts, #15.

      +1.

    10. Kamieniecki
      December 27th, 2013 | 11:12 pm

      @ #15:
      Good stuff… Thanks.

    11. December 28th, 2013 | 12:42 pm

      Steve L. wrote:

      Great post on FB today by Marty Appel:
      Talking about Paul Blair with Steve Lenox on MLB.com earlier – long story I didn’t have time for, but Paul Blair was released by the Yankees in April 1979. A month later signed with the Reds. He was in Cincinnati when Thurman Munson died – came up to Canton for the funeral, and he was the one lending comfort and support for a grieving Billy Martin at that event. A lot of ex-teammates came to Canton that day. Odd that he was the one Billy leaned on.

      Billy and Paul bonded because both were beamed during their playing career, Billy understood the struggles Paul had at the plate.

    12. Evan3457
      December 28th, 2013 | 4:23 pm

      Paul Blair was an outstanding player before the beaning, and even after, an excellent bench player. I was happy when the Yanks picked him up in 1977, even though I knew he was finished as a full-timer.

      Thanks to #15 for the personal insights.

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