- Paul Blair (baseball)
Infobox MLB retired
caption=Paul Blair in 2007
birthdate=birth date and age|1944|2|1
New York Yankees
New York Yankees(by|1977-by|1979, by|1980)
* 2x All-Star selection (1969, 1973)
Gold Glove Awardwinner (1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975)
Paul L D Blair (born
February 1, 1944in Cushing, Oklahoma) is a former Major League Baseball center fielder.
Blair, who batted and threw
right-handed(and was a switch hitterfor a very brief period of his career), played for the Baltimore Orioles(1964-76), New York Yankees(1977-79, 1980) and Cincinnati Reds(1979).
Blair was originally signed by the
New York Metsas an amateur free agentin by|1961. After spending the by|1962 season in their farm system, he was drafted by the Orioles in the 1962 first-year draft. He broke into the Orioles' lineup in by|1965 and, despite hitting only .234 with five home runs and 25 runs batted in, impressed many with his defensive skills. In by|1966 he batted .277 and won his first of four World Seriestitles. In Games Three and Four of that World Series, which the Frank Robinson-led Orioles swept from the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgersin four games, Blair played a major role in 1-0 shutouts by Wally Bunkerand Dave McNallyrespectively, hitting a 430-foot home run off Claude Osteenin Game Three, and robbing Jim Lefebvreof an eighth-inning home run that would have tied Game Four.
In by|1967 Blair established a career high .293 batting average with 11 home runs and 64 RBIs, along with an
American League-leading 12 triples. He also won the first of his eight Gold Glove Awards. After slumping to .211 in by|1968, Blair had perhaps his best season in by|1969. Batting second behind Don Bufordin the Orioles' lineup, he hit .285 with career highs in home runs (26), runs batted in (76) and runs (102). He also made the All-Star team for the first time; he would repeat this feat in by|1973. His Orioles won the pennant, but lost to the Miracle Mets in the World Series. Blair went only 2-for-20 in that Series, including being the victim, in Game Three, of one of Tommie Agee's two spectacular game-saving catches (Agee had also robbed Elrod Hendricksearlier in the game). On an interesting sidenote, on that Agee catch, Blair would be the first batter Nolan Ryanwould face in a World Series—the only World Series game the Hall of Fame pitcher would participate in. One of Blair's two hits came in the seventh inning of Game Two; it broke up Jerry Koosman's bid for a no-hitter.
May 31, by|1970 Blair was beaned by California Angel pitcher Ken Tatum and suffered a broken nose. He recovered quickly, finishing the season batting .267. That year, Baltimore won another pennant and defeated the Cincinnati Redsin five games in World Series. Both Blair and Series MVP Brooks Robinsonatoned for their 1969 World Series performances (Robinson went 1-for-19, the lone hit coming in Game Two, scoring Blair; he was himself the victim of a spectacular catch, by Ron Swobodain Game Four) by tying a five-game Fall Classic record with nine hits apiece.
In by|1971 Blair took up switch-hitting but stopped after batting only .193 (11-for-57). He finished the season hitting .262. His Orioles won another pennant, but lost the World Series to the
Pittsburgh Piratesin seven games.
Blair's speed going back in the outfield enabled him to play shallow, and make catches a la
Willie Mays. In each of the Orioles' three consecutive World Series seasons, Blair won a Gold Glove. He would also win a Gold Glove over the next four seasons, his last Gold Glove in by|1975 coinciding with teammate Brooks Robinsonwinning his 16th consecutive—and last—Gold Glove at third base.
January 20, by|1977, Blair was traded to the New York Yankees for another outfielder, Elliott Maddox. On June 18of that year in a nationally televised game against the Boston Red Soxat Fenway Park, he was involved—though not directly—in one of the most bizarre scenes in baseball history. Yankee manager Billy Martintook right fielder Reggie Jacksonout of the game and replaced him with Blair after Jackson had misplayed Jim Rice's fly ball for a double. As the cameras watched, Jackson and Martin nearly came to blows.
After winning World Series titles with the Yankees in 1977 and by|1978, Blair was released early in the by|1979 season. The Cincinnati Reds signed him as a free agent less than a month later, and Blair returned to the Yankees in May of by|1980. He retired after the Yankees released him a second time, on
July 1of that year.
In his 17-year career, Blair, whose
nickname, "Motormouth," came from his talkative nature, batted .250 with 134 home runs and 620 RBIs, 1513 hits and 171 stolen bases in 1947 games played. He was also one of the top bunters in the game, recording at least 10 sacrifice hits four times in his career, including 17 during the 1975 season.
Blair currently resides in
Owings Mills, Marylandand works out at Triangle Fitness in Eldersburg, Maryland. He also bowls at Kings Point Lanes in Reisterstown, Maryland.
Top 500 home run hitters of all time
Major League Baseball hitters with three home runs in one game
List of Major League Baseball triples champions
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