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Paul Blair dies at 69 — Baltimore Orioles great won eight Gold Gloves

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Paul Blair in 1975 (Getty)

Though not as famous as some of his teammates, Paul Blair indispensably covered center field for four World Series teams with the Baltimore Orioles. Reputed to be perhaps the best defensive outfielder in franchise history, Blair won eight Gold Gloves. He made two All-Star teams alongside the likes of Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson. And teammates called him "Motormouth" because he talked a lot.

The Orioles family lost one of its greats when Blair died unexpectedly Thursday at age 69. His wife of 42 years reported the sad news to the Baltimore Sun:

Gloria Blair said her husband played 18 holes of golf with friends Thursday morning, and when he came home was asked to take part in a celebrity bowling tournament at AMF Pikesville Lanes.

"Paul was honestly too tired, but he never says no," she said. "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."

The great Orioles teams of the '60s and '70s have been losing teammates in recent years. Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver died in January. Left-handers Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally are gone, as are right-hander Pat Dobson, catcher Elrod Hendricks and shortstop Mark Belanger.

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Frank Robinson (on the left) with Blair, Brooks Robinson and Davey Johnson line up at the 1970 World Series. ( …

Blair made the American League All-Star squad in 1969 and 1973, and won seven straight Gold Gloves from '69-75 after winning his first in 1967. He batted .250/.302/.382 for his career in a pitching-dominated era. A lot of that dominant pitching came from the Orioles, who also relied on defense from guys like Blair (and the three-run homer).

Al Bumbry eventually replaced Blair with the Orioles and said this about the transition:

"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," Mr. Bumbry said. "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."

After winning two championships with the O's (in '66 and '70), Blair won two more as a part-timer with the Yankees.

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David Brown is an editor and a Secret Santa for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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