BALTIMORE — Paul Blair, the eight-time Gold Glove center fielder who helped the Baltimore Orioles win a pair of World Series titles while gliding to make catches that former teammates still marvel at more than four decades later, has died.
Blair died Thursday, December 27, 2013 at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore. He was 69.
Blair played a round of golf with friends Thursday morning and later lost consciousness at a celebrity bowling tournament in Pikesville.
“During a practice round, he threw two or three balls, then sat down and told a friend, ‘I feel funny’ and kind of collapsed. He lost consciousness and they called 911 and the ambulance took him to the hospital, but the doctors there told me they never got a pulse,” Blair’s wife, Gloria told reporters.
A member of the Orioles Hall of Fame, the popular Blair patrolled the outfield from 1964-76, playing key parts when Baltimore won its first two World Series crowns in 1966 and 1970. He won two more titles with the New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978 and also played for the Cincinnati Reds.
“When you talk about the greatest defensive center fielders, he was right in the mix,” said former Orioles teammate Don Buford. “With me in left and Frank Robinson in right, we played toward the lines and gave him a lot of room. He could really go get it.”
In 17 seasons in the majors, he hit .250 with 134 home runs, 620 RBIs and 171 stolen bases. Blair appeared in six World Series, two All-Star games and won Gold Gloves in 1967 and 1969-75.
In the 1966 World Series, Blair homered for the only run in Baltimore’s Game 3 victory over Los Angeles.
The underdog Orioles completed an unlikely sweep the next day, with Blair jumping high above the fence at Memorial Stadium to snare Jim Lefebvre’s bid for a tying home run in the eighth inning.
Blair led the Orioles in the 1970 World Series with a .474 average in Baltimore’s five-game victory over Cincinnati. That year, he hit three home runs and had six RBIs in a game against the Chicago White Sox.
Inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1984, Blair coached at Fordham University in 1983 and at Coppin State from 1998-2002. He had a heart attack in December 2009.
Blair was originally drafted by the New York Mets and spent one season in their minor league system. The Orioles drafted him from the Mets in late 1962.