Paul Blair, an 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, died Dec. 26 at a hospital in Baltimore. He was 69.
Mr. Blair’s wife, Gloria, told the Baltimore Sun that her husband played a round of golf with friends Thursday morning and later that evening lost consciousness at a celebrity bowling tournament in Pikesville, Md.
“Paul was honestly too tired, but he never says no,” Gloria Blair told the newspaper. “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.”
Mr. Blair had a heart attack in December 2009.
A member of the Orioles Hall of Fame, Mr. Blair was a popular player who patrolled the Baltimore outfield from 1964 to 1976. He was a key member of the Orioles’ first two World Series-winning teams in 1966 and 1970. He won two more titles with the New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978 and also played for Cincinnati.
In an era before highlight reels were a daily staple on TV, Mr. Blair frequently made catches that became the talk of baseball. Thin and quick, he played with flair — at the end of an inning, he would tuck his glove up against his chest for a regal trot back to the dugout.
“When you talk about the greatest defensive center fielders, he was right in the mix,” Don Buford, an All-Star left fielder who played alongside Blair for five seasons in Baltimore, told the Associated Press. “He played very shallow. People talked about how Willie Mays played shallow, and Paul did the same thing. He played with assuredness.”
In 17 seasons in the majors, Mr. Blair hit .250 with 134 home runs, 620 RBIs and 171 stolen bases. He had perhaps his finest season in 1969, when he batted .285 with 26 home runs, 76 RBIs and 102 runs scored for an Orioles team that won the American League pennant under manager Earl Weaver.
Mr. Blair appeared in six World Series, two All-Star games and won Gold Gloves in 1967 and from 1969 through 1975.
In the 1966 World Series, he 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 Mr. Blair jumping high above the fence at Memorial Stadium to snare Jim Lefebvre’s bid for a tying home run in the eighth inning. He caught a fly ball for the final out in a 1-0 Baltimore victory.
Mr. Blair led the Orioles in the 1970 World Series with a .474 average in Baltimore’s five-game victory over Cincinnati. On April 29, 1970, he hit three home runs and had six RBIs in a game against the Chicago White Sox.
Beaned by a pitch in late May that season, Mr. Blair missed several weeks of action before coming back to help the Birds to the title.
After retiring as a player in 1980, Mr. Blair coached at Fordham University in New York and, from 1998 to 2002, at Coppin State University in Baltimore. He was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1984. He was a longtime instructor at spring training for the Orioles and often appeared at celebrity golf tournaments and other events in the Baltimore area.
He was a resident of Woodstock, Md., in Howard County.
Paul L.D. Blair was born Feb. 1, 1944, in Cushing, Okla., and grew up in Los Angeles.
He was originally drafted by the New York Mets and spent one season in their minor league system before being acquired by the Orioles.
He fit neatly into a team built on strong defense — led by third baseman Brooks Robinson — and stellar pitching, as Baltimore reached the World Series four times in six years.
Friendly in the clubhouse, he was called “Motormouth” for his constant banter.
“He’d be talking about something, and maybe you’d get two words in, and then he’d be off starting another conversation,” Buford recalled.
Complete information about survivors was not immediately available.