Former Baltimore Orioles center fielder Paul Blair passed away on Thursday, Dec. 26 at the age of 69.
Blair passed away at Sinai Hospital, according to a hospital spokeswoman (via the Associated Press).
Dan Connolly and Mike Klingaman of the Baltimore Sun reported on the matter. Blair's wife, Gloria Blair, detailed the events in Pikesville, Md., leading up to her husband's death, which occurred at a celebrity bowling tournament:
Paul was honestly too tired, but he never says no...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.
Such a sudden and tragic development will leave a somber mood regarding Paul Blair and the legacy he left behind. Many have extended their condolences and praised how prolific the renowned ballplayer was.
ESPN Stats & Info highlighted some of the notable accomplishments Blair achieved in his spectacular career, which spanned 17 years from 1964 through 1980:
Former MLB outfielder Paul Blair has died. Blair won 8 Gold Gloves in 17-season career and played in 6 World Series' (winning 4 of them)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 27, 2013
But the first 13 of those seasons were in Baltimore, where Blair was a cornerstone on a couple of the franchise's best teams ever. The Orioles won the World Series in 1966 and 1970, largely thanks to the contributions from Blair in the outfield.
As Connolly and Klingaman note in their story, Blair hit .474 in the 1970 World Series in addition to being a force as a fielder. The report also records a comment by Al Bumbry, who filled in for Blair in center and noted he learned from him, and also how much flair Blair played with:
He taught me a lot, a lot about playing. He always made me feel comfortable. It wasn't like we were competing for the same position. He played very shallow and I would always marvel about how he played as shallow as he did and how well he could go back on balls.
Although Blair was only a career .250 hitter, he was an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner whom Sports Illustrated's Peter King called one of the best defensive center fielders of all-time:
RIP Paul Blair, one of the best best defensive center fielders ever.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) December 27, 2013
Jay Jaffe of SI.com further accentuated how proficient Blair was with his glove with an impressive statistic:
RIP Paul Blair. Only saw him at end of career w/ Yanks, alas. 2nd all-time in defensive WAR among OF http://t.co/zwsm0vxuG0— Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) December 27, 2013
Connolly also noted former teammate Frank Robinson's reaction:
HOFer Frank Robinson on the death of former teammate Paul Blair: "You lost an Oriole, a true Oriole passed away yesterday."— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) December 27, 2013
More Frank on Blair: "The players, the organization, the fans, they are going to miss him because he was an Oriole through and through."— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) December 27, 2013
Frank on Blair the player: "He was to the outfield what Brooks was to the infield. He was our glue out there. ...— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) December 27, 2013
"..I had to play such a small area (RF) just to get out of his way, so did the left fielder, that it felt like we werent even on the field."— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) December 27, 2013
During his initial time with the Bronx Bombers, the venerated veteran won two more World Series rings in 1977 and 1978, though he played just 158 games combined in those two seasons, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Thursday, Dec. 26 marked a tragic end for a universally loved Oriole, but the impact Blair had in Baltimore will continue to be celebrated for years to come.