Orioles Hall Of Famer Paul Blair Dies At 69

By Paul Folkemer

The Orioles mourned the passing of one of the franchise’s all-time legends Dec. 26, as longtime center fielder Paul Blair, a member of the team’s Hall of Fame, died at age 69.

“It is with great sadness that we learned of Paul Blair’s passing last evening,” Orioles owner Peter Angelos said in a statement. “Paul was a key member of many of the Orioles’ most memorable and successful teams, as his contributions at the plate and his Gold Glove defense in center field helped the club to two World Series and four AL pennants.

“After his on-field career, Paul made the Baltimore area his home and stayed involved with the organization through his appearances in the community and at the ballpark. On behalf of the Orioles I extend my condolences to his wife, Gloria, and his family.”

Blair, considered by many O’s fans to be the greatest defensive outfielder in team history, was an eight-time Gold Glove winner, winning his first in 1967 and then taking home the award during seven consecutive seasons (1969-75). Blair’s Gold Glove tally trailed only Brooks Robinson’s 16 for the most of any Oriole. Blair was elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1984.

Blair broke into the majors with the Orioles in 1964 at age 20 and remained with the club for 12 more years, logging 1,700 games, more than 1,550 of them in center field. Blair was a two-time All-Star (1969 and 1973) who enjoyed perhaps his finest offensive season in 1969, when he racked up career highs in OPS (.804), home runs (26) and RBIs (76).

But it was Blair’s defense that made him a true standout. Blair’s prowess with the glove was nearly unmatched; his speed and range in center field allowed him to track down nearly every fly ball that came his way. Blair, known for playing a shallow center field, was one of the best in the game at covering ground and tracking balls. If a fly ball was lofted anywhere in the vicinity of center field, it seemed Blair would inevitably be in the right spot, ready and waiting for the ball to come down with time to spare — regardless of how much distance he needed to cover.

Blair was an essential cog in the Orioles teams that went to the World Series in 1966, ’69, ’70 and ’71 — winning two championships. After leaving the Orioles, Blair spent the final four seasons of his career with the Yankees and Reds, winning two more World Series in New York. Blair’s 17-year career ended in 1980.


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