Paul Blair was the speedy center fielder for the Orioles during their mid-1960s to mid-1970s golden days.
Blair was signed by the METS (who had yet to field a team) in July 1961. The Orioles claimed him after the 1962 season in the minor-league draft of first-year players. (I learned something new today!)
Paul played in the Orioles’ system for the ’63 and ’64 seasons, and made his major-league debut in September 1964, playing in 8 games as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement in center field (with only 1 at-bat).
Blair was the Orioles’ starting center fielder for the first 2 months of the 1965 season, then was in and out of the lineup during June, before missing the entire month of July. He returned to the starting lineup on August 6th, and started all the remaining games in center field.
In 1966 Blair played in 133 games, but only had 79 starts (all in center field). Although he only hit .167 in the World Series, he clubbed a home run in the O’s 1-0 win over the Dodgers in game #3.
He was the team’s regular center fielder through the 1976 season, and won 8 Gold Gloves in the 9-year span from 1967 to 1975.
After 1976, he was traded to the Yankees for outfielder Eliot Maddox. After 2 seasons as a part-time player for the outfielder-heavy Yankees, he was released in April 1979.
Blair was signed by the Reds a month later, and was a bench player for the remainder of the season, although he also made 37 starts in center field (but none after early-August).
Granted free agency after the 1979 season, Paul did not find work until the end of May 1980 when the Yankees re-signed him. After appearing in 12 games over the next month, he was released on July 1st, ending his 17-year career.
Blair passed away in December 2013 at age 69.
RIP - Mike de la Hoz
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