Paul Blair, the All-Star outfielder who was most-known for having played with the Baltimore Orioles in the 1960s and 1970s, died Thursday night at Baltimore's Sinai Hospital. He was 69.
The Oklahoma-born Blair was one of baseball's best defensive players in his position, having been an eight-time Gold Glove center fielder during his 14 years in the league.
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During his time in Major League Baseball, Blair helped his team's win four World Series Championships, two with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966 and then again in 1970, and two with the New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978.
According to Blair's wife Gloria, the baseball great had played 18 holes of golf with friends Thursday morning after which he attended a celebrity bowling tournament where he collapsed.
"Paul was honestly too tired, but he never says no," she told the Baltimore Sun
. "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," she added. "I was told he died around 6:45 p.m."
Blair had suffered a heart attack in December 2009, however it was not reported whether or not his collapse Thursday was also due to heart trouble.
In an era before highlight reels were a daily staple on TV, Blair frequently made catches that became the talk of baseball, the Associated Press noted
"He played very shallow. People talked about how Willie Mays played shallow, and Paul did the same thing. He played with assuredness," Don Buford, an All-Star left fielder who played alongside Blair for five seasons in Baltimore, told the AP.
"When you talk about the greatest defensive center fielders, he was right in the mix," Buford added. "With me in left and Frank Robinson in right, we played toward the lines and gave him a lot of room. He could really go get it."
Nicknamed "Motormouth" for his apparent unwillingness to stop talking, Blair was well-liked both on and off the field according to teammates.
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"He was that way; he never stopped talking, and it wasn't always about baseball. I figured all the Gold Gloves he won gave him the right to talk," Al Bumbry, Blair's center fielder replacement on the Orioles, told the Baltimore Sun. "He was very humorous, so funny. Everybody loved him."
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