We love current Orioles' center fielder Adam Jones, but the first O's center fielder we adored—and emulated as kids chasing fly balls—was the graceful Paul Blair.
The eight-time Gold Glove winner, who helped lead the Orioles to World Series titles in 1966 and 1970, died last night after collapsing at a Pikesville bowling alley. He was 69 years old.
"When you talk about the greatest defensive center fielders, he was right in the mix," former O's leftfielder Don Buford told the Associated Press. "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."
Gloria Blair, his wife of 42 years, told the Baltimore Sun that her husband had played golf Thursday morning with friends and headed over to the AMF Pikesville Lanes afterwards to participate in a celebrity bowling tournament.
"Paul was honestly too tired, but he never says no," Gloria Blair told the Sun. "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 [Sinai Hospital], but the doctors there told me they never got a pulse. I was told he died around 6:45 p.m."
In the 1966 World Series, Blair homered for the the only run in the O's win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3. He hit .474 in the O's 1970 World Series victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
In manager Earl Weaver's rollicking Orioles' clubhouse back in the day, Blair was nicknamed "Motormouth."
"He'd be talking about something, and maybe you'd get two words in, and then he'd be off starting another conversation," recalled Buford.