Former Yankee Paul Blair passes away at 69

Holiday Mailbag: Manny Banuelos
Photo: Masahiro Tanaka meets Hideki Matsui at Yankee Stadium in 2006

Former Yankees outfielder Paul Blair passed away at age 69 yesterday. He reportedly died shortly after collapsing at a celebrity bowling tournament in Maryland. Blair, who spent the majority of his career with the Orioles, was with the Yankees from 1977-1980 and helped the team to the 1977 and 1978 World Series titles. He was one of the best defensive center fielders in history and a staple at Old Timers’ Day. Condolences to his family and friends.

Holiday Mailbag: Manny Banuelos
Photo: Masahiro Tanaka meets Hideki Matsui at Yankee Stadium in 2006
  • Pseudoyanks

    Sorry to hear… he could go get it with the best of them.

    • Wolfgang’s Fault

      No question! Although on the Yankee Bronx Zoo teams of ’77 & ’78, really made his name as one of the greats on those terrific Baltimore Oriole teams of the ’60’s and early to mid ’70’s, an era which with ever increasing rapidity recedes into the distant past. I recall he once was pretty seriously beaned and it had an impact on the #’s he put up for a while, but don’t remember all the details. Really a terrific outfielder as he made it all look so easy.

  • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

    RIP and thanks for the memories. I was at ALL those games in the late 70’s!!

  • Thurdonpaul

    Mr. Blair was a class act, a true professional, I enjoyed watching him play. Condolences to his family.

  • Bullwinkles

    This one made me feel like the old man that I am. I loved to see him play even though I was a Yankee fan. I tried to model my outfield play after him. He would very gracefully glide through the outfield. And from everything I ever read about him he was a genuine person. Was ecstatic when the Yanks got him even though he was well past his prime. Very sad. See you soon, Paul, maybe we’ll play some catch.

    • trr

      Jesus, Bull, stick around for a while, OK?

  • trr

    A fine player, he was definitely a contributor to those late 70’s teams, though he was a bit past his prime by then.
    My condolences to his family and friends.

  • cheddar

    First game I ever went to, and my only one in YS1, Blair (playing for Baltimore) made a terrific diving catch on a short ball to center and dug up a big patch of grass. Just from that memory, I was a really happy kid when we acquired him a few years later.

    Two huge hits in back-to-back games in the ’77 postseason – he started the rally to come from behind and beat KC in game 5, and drove in the winning run to beat LA in game 1.

    But my favorite memory of all wasn’t even on the field. When I was in high school, Blair played on a traveling basketball team of pro athletes from other sports. They played a game against a bunch of my high school teachers. One of those teachers was a gym teacher who was a bully in the old sense of the word. No one I knew liked him at all. Well, at one point in the game, Blair drove to the hoop and the gym teacher (who was a total hack at hoops), nailed him and knocked him to the ground. I think it was his 3rd or 4th foul, and all were pretty rough. He stuck out his hand to help Blair up, and Blair smacked it aside. Nothing else happened, but that was enough. Every student there who ever wanted to smack that teacher felt like he/she had a hand in that moment.

    RIP, Mr. Blair.

    • DArren

      Cool story! (For real, not ironically.)

  • Bobby D.

    I’ll never forget Paul leading off the ninth inning of game 5 against the Royals in 1977. We were down a run with the series on the line. A great gritty tough at bat against Dennis Leonard!! Fouling off pitch after pitch and then a single to center field! I can still see that smile as he rounded third base when Mickey Rivers singled to right field to tie the score. The Yanks won the pennant by scoring two more runs that inning and Sparky Lyle saved it. A couple of days later I sat with my friends in the left center field bleachers for game one of the 1977 world series and Blair knocked in Willie Randolph from second base with a single between short and third to win the game. I can still see that ball bouncing through the hole and Willie scoring. Those two games rank up there as my greatest thrills in fourty eight years as a Yankee fan! Thank you Paul!!

  • LarryM Fl

    There are some players that you just love to watch play even if they’re not on your team. Paul Blair was one of those players. He was fun to watch more frequently when we had him for those few years.

    If I recall correctly Paul Blair was sent out to the OF to relieve Jackson in Boston. You know the famous Martin/Reggie fiasco for allegedly dogging it in the OF.

  • Craig

    I never saw Paul play a game, but he became one of my heros growing up in the Bronx after I attended his baseball camp for several years in Westchester NY in the early 80’s I remember how we as kids at the camp would watch old videos of Paul playing in the 1966 and 1970 World Series and how we would cheer as Paul got a hit or made an outstanding catch. He was always so approachable and his smile would light up a room . He became friends with my family and even attended a baseball awards breakfast for my little league bringing Yankee rookie Dave Righetti with him !! My family and I ran into him in Cooperstown where my parents moved to many years later, my dad pulled out a picture of me, my sister and Paul out of his wallet to show Paul and he was in awe that my dad still carried it for like twenty years . R.I.P. Paul my hero a great ball player and even better man

    • RetroRob

      You win. : -)

  • Wolfgang’s Fault

    Wow, great story!!!

  • dalelama

    Here is an article about the death of the greatest fielding centerfielder of my lifetime. I didn’t know he won two WS rings with the Yanks before I read this article.

    Paul Blair R.I.P.

  • Grover

    For you young guys Blair was one of the greats because he played so much shallower than his contemporaries that he could literally rob singles and yet still make the catch at the wall. In a word: instinct. He was also a very good hitter with some pop before the beaning by Tatum. Afterwards, he could not keep his front leg from stepping out and was easy pickings on the outside of the plate and his power vanished. Psychologists were probably taboo back then in sports but if might have allowed him to be amongst Hal of Fame consideration if he had been able to overcome. Truly one of the best fielders I have ever seen live. It may be difficult for some young guys to understand the rivalry with the Orioles was huge because the Yankees stunk and the O’s were a nearly perfectly constructed team with great pitching, power and defense. Up until 1975 the Red Sox were just another AL east team the Yankees owned but the Orioles were Darth Vader for a decade and they had the Yankees number for many years. RIP Paul.

  • pounder

    I met him when he was managing the Yonkers Hoot Owls back in the early 90’s.Nice guy.

  • Bono

    Sidenote: number 20 on that B-Ref list is… Brett Gardner! Hurray!