Paul Blair doesn’t have a statue behind center field at Camden Yards, and he wasn’t honored by the Orioles with a uniform patch this season after he passed away last December. But he does have a legion of fans in Baltimore who plan to honor him with signs and cheers when the Orioles and the New York Yankees play a doubleheader at Camden Yards on Friday.
The grassroots tribute to a guy who was arguably the greatest defensive center fielder in club history began earlier in the week when Baltimore City Council Chairman Bernard C. “Jack” Young introduced a resolution honoring Blair, who made his major league debut with the Orioles 50 years ago this past Tuesday. The resolution also officially designated Friday as “Paul Blair Day” in Baltimore.
Blair won eight Gold Gloves and played on six World Series teams — four with the Orioles and two with the Yankees while he was winding down his great career. He was a major component of the great teams that featured Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer and Boog Powell, but some fans feel that his accomplishments have not gotten the recognition they deserve.
“Adam Jones is great,’’ said Baltimore writer Rafael Alvarez, “but up to this moment, Blair is the greatest center fielder in the history of the franchise. That might change five years from now, but right now it’s Paul Blair.”
Alvarez said the team missed an opportunity to honor Blair with a uniform patch this year, an omission made more glaring by the fact that the Orioles are wearing the name of the late author and former co-owner Tom Clancy on their sleeves. No one is arguing that Clancy does not deserve a tribute. Just that Blair deserves the same respect.
“The gulf between [no recognition] and the greatest center fielder in team history is huge, and we just want to fill it,’’ said Alvarez, who is encouraging fans to bring signs honoring Blair to both games of the doubleheader.
Blair broke into the major leagues Sept. 9, 1964 as a defensive replacement and got only one at-bat that season. But two years later, his home run accounted for the only run in Game 3 of the 1966 World Series and was a key moment in the shocking four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Though he made stops in New York and Cincinnati after his Orioles career ended in 1976, he spent his retirement in the Baltimore area and was a fixture at a variety of local charity events.
The informal celebration at Camden Yards got the blessing of Blair’s widow and actually has a charity component to honor his memory.
Organizers have created a Paul Blair T-Shirt that is available for $20 at G&A; Coney Island Hot Dogs on Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown. Proceeds will be donated in Blair’s name to the St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital.