Ex-Orioles star Blair joins Coppin as baseball coach AD Mitchell cites 'wealth of knowledge, experience'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

At the tender age of 53, after eight years of drawing from the major-league baseball players' pension plan and playing golf "every day it doesn't rain," Paul Blair is back in the game.

The brilliant center fielder, who won eight Gold Gloves with the Orioles from 1964-76, was named Coppin State's coach yesterday. He succeeds Jason Booker, who is resigning effective June 30 for a position with Health Services to Children With Families With Disabilities in Washington.

Blair's only head coaching experience was at Fordham University in 1983, where he was 14-19. But that did not dissuade Coppin athletic director Fang Mitchell from offering him the job.

"We're very pleased to have Paul join the Coppin family," Mitchell said. "His outstanding career as a player speaks for itself, and he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience."

A Baltimore resident since 1965, Blair concluded his playing career with the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds and sandwiched the Fordham job between brief stints as an outfield instructor with the Yankees and Houston Astros.

"Ever since, I've been my own entrepreneur, doing speaking engagements and card shows," said Blair, noting that he has been drawing his baseball pension since he was 45.

"I enjoyed it at Fordham, and this is a new challenge."

In taking over a team that was 16-24 this year, Blair came highly recommended -- by Brooks Robinson, for one.

"The recommendation from Brooks and Paul's ties to the Orioles and the local territory are why he'll be a positive thing for the program," Mitchell said.

Blair, who laughingly said his contract calls for him "to stay at Coppin as long as they want me," was acknowledged as the best defensive center fielder of his time. In 1984, he was the 10th player inducted into what is now the 30-member Orioles Hall of Fame.

Pub Date: 6/10/97

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