By In Baseball, RIP

Paul Blair

What I remember most is a sound. It’s a familiar sound now, but I was probably 7 or 8 then. The batter hit the ball deep into the outfield and my eyes followed the ball. That’s the natural move, to follow the ball, and when you do even the most routine outfield fly ball looks at first like a home run. Everyone in Cleveland Municipal Stadium all jumped to their feet, all at once, and made that great sound, the one that at first sounds like “WHAHHHHH!” but soon fades into this wonderful rushing sound, like a high wind.

That’s not the sound I remember, though.

No, then I looked down and there was a blur of a man racing after the ball. By the time I had thought to look down, he was already at full speed. In memory, the man was wearing orange. In memory, he ran for a long time, only occasionally looking up to find the ball. He was impossibly graceful, though I’m sure I didn’t know the word yet. He ran hard without looking like he was running hard.

It did not seem, to my meager sense of geometry, like the man had any chance to outrun the ball. But then, just as he got to the warning track, he reached up and caught it over his right shoulder, perfectly in stride, as if the ball was intended for him. He gently bumped into the wall, turned, and easily threw the ball back to the infield. Another town. Another out.

And those great cheers just disappeared as if turned off like a water faucet.

That’s the sound I remember: The sound of the cheers turning off.

“Well,” my father said. “That’s Paul Blair.”

5 Responses to Paul Blair

  1. James says:

    Well that was impossibly beautiful 🙂

  2. blazon says:


    it took a long time…

    it happened incrementally…

    you’re back and sometimes even better than before…

    the Penn State mess behind you…good times ahead…

    this lovely Paul Blair piece will do as well as any to acknowledge this…

    to the New Year!

  3. chuck says:

    I am an old fart with a long memory of the great centerfielders from the early fifties on……none was as brilliant as Paul Blair. Your simple ode says it in a far more eloquent way than I ever could…..which is no surprise. Mays was great…fast, athletic, and joyful. Blair was like Secretariat….matter-of-factually elegant.

  4. I liken Blair to a young Andruw Jones (not the fat, slow, I gave up trying hard long ago version seen most recently). Both played shallow and were able to snag shallow line drives, to the frustration of many hitters. But both had supernatural first steps that allowed them to range deep into the alleys to snag long drives. Neither appeared to have unbelievable speed when watching them run the bases, but they somehow got to damned near every ball.

  5. Kelly says:

    I never saw Paul play but was lucky enough to meet him a few times since we moved to bmore. What a very gracious, kind and humble man. Always willing to sign autographs and chat with fans. RIP Paul, you will be greatly missed!

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