Blair's death ends sad year for Orioles, Baltimore sports fans

Blair's death ends sad year for Orioles, Baltimore sports fans
December 27, 2013, 8:00 am
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(Paul Raphael-USA TODAY Sports)

This has been a sad year for Orioles fans. The greatest manager, one of the best catchers and an eight-time Gold Glove winner all gone.

On Thursday night word came that Paul Blair, who won eight Gold Gloves for the Orioles in the 1960’s and 70’s died at 69.

Blair collapsed while participating at a celebrity bowling event in Pikesville, Md., and he died later at Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital.

Earlier in the day, Blair played golf.

Blair was a four-time World Series winner, twice with the Orioles and twice late in his career with the Yankees, and his death ends a year full of loss for the team.

In January, Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver died while on a cruise. The news was announced as the team was assembling for FanFest.

The 82-year-old Weaver won four pennants and one World Series in his 17 years of managing. In 2012, Weaver was one of six Orioles greats honored with a statue, and died less than six months later.

Weaver won 1,480 games in two stints as manager. He replaced Hank Bauer in July 1968 and managed until 1982. Weaver returned in June 1985 and retired at the end of the next season.

His .583 winning percentage is ninth among all managers.

Triandos, who was a three-time All-Star in eight seasons with the Orioles from 1955-62, died at the end of spring training in March at 82.

He was the first to wear the oversize glove when he caught knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm in 1958. Triandos caught no-hitters in both leagues, the first catcher to do so. He caught Wilhelm’s no-hitter in 1958, and in 1964, Jim Bunning’s perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Not only did Weaver, Triandos and Blair die in 2013, but so did Colts great Artie Donovan.

Donovan, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968, was a tackle for the Colts for 10 seasons, retiring in 1961.

Known to younger viewers by his many appearances on David Letterman’s program in the 1980’s, Donovan, who was 89 when he died in August, ran a Baltimore country club for many years.

[RELATED: Paul Blair passes away at age 69]

Other notable Baltimore sports personalities died left us in 2013, too.

Mike McCormack, who coached the Colts in 1980 and 1981, died last month at 83.

Toni Linhart, who was the kicker for three Colts playoff teams in the 1970’s died at 70 in May. Linhart was best known for missing three field goals in a 1979 game. Afterward, Mercurial owner Robert Irsay offered him a $10,000 bonus for trying. He was released three days later.

On Saturday, Colts defensive back Art DeCarlo, who played on the 1958 World Championship team died at 82.

Basketball Hall of Famer Walt Bellamy, who played for the Baltimore Bullets from 1963-65, died last month at 74.

Best-selling author Tom Clancy, who was a part-owner of the Orioles, died on Oct. 1.

The great center fielder was very popular in the Baltimore community, and made countless appearances for the Orioles. In June 2010, he made critical comments about the team’s management at an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1970 World Series champs.

At the event, Blair, Weaver, Davey Johnson, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer and Boog Powell all spoke about the team, but the comments seemed out of place.

Many of Blair’s teammates from that team are already gone. Elrod Hendricks, Mark Belanger, Chico Salmon, Curt Motton, Roger Freed, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, Jim Hardin, Marcelino Lopez.

Brooks Robinson was the most emotional. “This is the last reunion,” he said. “I’ll probably never see some of these guys again.”

Blair attended the unveiling of Robinson’s statue in Sept. 2012, and his death last night clearly affected fans who watched him play for the Orioles from 1964-1975.

Originally signed by the New York Mets in 1961, Blair was drafted by the Orioles a year later and was the team’s regular center fielder in 1965. He won two World Series with the Orioles in 1966 and 1970

He was traded to the Yankees for Elliott Maddox in 1977, and won two World Series in New York. Blair also played for Cincinnati in 1979 and concluded his career in 1980 with the Yankees.

Blair served as a minor league instructor for the Orioles, Yankees and Astros organization and coached Fordham for a year. He coached Baltimore’s Coppin State baseball team from 1998-200w.

His death ends this sad year for Orioles fans and Baltimore sports fans.