It’s been a rough year for the Baltimore Orioles. Not only did they miss the playoffs, they’ve lost some very important members of their family. They’ve lost their greatest manager ever The Earl of Baltimore Earl Weaver, arguably their greatest catcher in Gus Triandos, and now they’ve lost their greatest defensive outfielder in Paul Blair. Blair passed away last night after suffering from a heart attack while doing something that he loved to do- bowling. Blair was 69 years old.
Blair holds several Orioles records. In 1967, he set the Orioles single season record for triples with 12 and he has held it ever since. He also holds the team record for most gold gloves by an outfielder with 8. He was a part of the 1966 and 1970 World Series Champion teams. Paul Blair was also a member of the 1977 and 1978 World Series champion New York Yankees. Perhaps his most memorable moment as a Yankee was when he replaced Reggie Jackson in right field after being removed from the game by Billy Martin.
How Paul even became an Oriole is sort of an interesting story. He was signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent back in 1961. However, they left him unprotected and the Orioles took advantage by selecting him in the first year player draft in 1962. He made his major league debut on September 9, 1964 as a pinch runner. He was handed the starting center fielder job in 1965 and he did not relinquish it until later in his career.
Blair was one of the best fielding outfielders that I’ve ever watched. He played center field as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. Even my grandfather, who had the pleasure of watching Willie Mays, always told me that as great as Mays was defensively, even the Say Hey Kid had nothing on Paul Blair. He used to play extremely shallow, but he had the speed to be able to chase down virtually anything hit his way.
Not only was Paul Blair a great player, he was also a great person. Blair was a regular during Alumni Autograph nights and was extremely active in the community. He loved meeting Orioles fans and he loved to share stories.
When Earl Weaver died, everyone said that God needed a new manager, and he wanted Earl. Well, I guess God needed a new center fielder. I’m sure Paul Blair is patrolling center field in that vast baseball stadium in the sky, just he did for so many years at Memorial Stadium.
Rest In Peace Paul Blair. You’ll be dearly missed.