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Remembering Paul Blair

December 28, 2013

Paul Blair, one of baseball’s greatest fielders and a member of four World Series winning teams, passed away this week. He was 69 years old.

Blair played on two Fall Classic winners with both the Baltimore Orioles (1966 and 1970) and the New York Yankees (1977 and 1978).

Having been an intense Los Angeles Dodgers fan during that time, Blair’s teams’ (3-0) W.S. record vs L.A. still “stings” a bit.

However, Paul is a player I liked and his exploits including those in winning World Series vs the Dodgers in 1966, 1977 and 1978 are worth recalling.

Paul was a big reason the Orioles swept the Dodgers in the 1966 World Series. In game three he homered for the game’s only run. The next day in game four, he made a home run saving catch in another (1-0) Orioles win.

A month shy of 11 years old, I was allowed to listen in the car but not watch as a “family destination” was deemed more important by my parents, but certainly not me.

I heard Blair’s catch that ended the World Series. Later seeing his beautiful, wide smile after that catch, I thought of the contrast with my frown at the result.

Eleven years later, Blair got two big hits that contributed mightily to an eventual Yankees’ World’s championship, their first in 15 years.

The first of these hits was in the 1977 ALCS vs the Kansas City Royals.

Down a run in the decisive 5th game, the Yankees rallied for three runs at Kansas City to win their second straight pennant and 31st overall.

It was Blair, who started the 9th inning rally with a bloop single. I am still upset that Royals’ center fielder, and a good one, Amos Otis was playing Blair so deep.

Then in the World Series opener vs “my” Dodgers, Blair drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning.

Some perspective for me and it is indicative of some sadness. I never met Blair, but a friend saw him working in a department store, not long after his retirement from baseball.

There is far from anything wrong with that, save the fact, far less productive players than Blair, will never even conceive of having to work at all after retirement.

There is beauty in baseball and catching a long fly ball with grace and ease is one entity in that beauty. Surely/hopefully Blair will already “be there,” waiting for the balls hit near him in eternity. Certainly on this planet few if any exceeded his talent in catching a baseball.

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