Growing up an Orioles fan I had the pleasure to watch two of the greatest fielders in history at their respective positions: Brooks Robinson and Paul Blair.
Paul Blair died in Baltimore last night at age 69.
While teammates and fans of his era (the 1960's - 70's) remember a fluid, graceful fielder of slender build and fluid motion, many people forget he was a very solid hitter until being beaned by a pitch in 1970. He was never the same hitter after that, involuntarily stepping into the bucket on any pitch even close to being inside. It was a shame because Blair possessed all the talents necessary for a storied career.
He won 8 Gold Gloves and batted .250 for his career, but the latter number would have been much higher had he not suffered that dreadful injury. Teammates literally stood and watched him in awe as he chased down fly balls deep to cavernous Memorial Stadium's outfield. He played very shallow and could glide back on the ball with uncommon ease. I still remember a teammate pulling up to watch Blair leap at the fence to haul in ball that was really the teammate's play to make.
He had a wonderful gait at the end of an inning, too. He would tuck his glove up near his armpit and glide into the dugout. He wasn't showing off; he was just enjoying the freedom of running and playing a game at which he was so good.