Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida, Europe and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 27, 2013

For a whole generation of Oriole fans like me, Paul Blair was the living embodiment of The Oriole Way. So very, very sad at the news that my all-time favorite Oriole, the baseball player I most patterned myself on as a CF, died Thursday night. THE player I studied so intensely so many days and nights at O's exhibition games at Miami Stadium in the 1970's, looking for any hint of how to do things the right way -The Oriole Way. He was always smiling, always friendly to fans, always hustling and always a great teammate. R.I.P. # 6 #Class; Roy Firestone

For a whole generation of Oriole fans like me, from South Florida up I-95 to Maryland/southern PA, and knowledgeable baseball fans from coast-to-coast who appreciated players who paid attention to detail and did the small things in a game that make the difference between winning and losing, Paul Blair was the living embodiment of The Oriole Way.




So very, very sad at the news Thursday night that the former Oriole legend and masterful centerfielder died Thursday night while bowling in suburban Pikesville.

Paul Blair was my all-time favorite Oriole, the baseball player I most patterned myself on as a Centerfielder in Little League and Pony League in North Miami Beach's Optimist League, just as it often seemed to me years later that Ken Griffey Jr. would pattern himself on years later -playing shallow in CF- after watching Paul while his Dad and Paul were teammates on the Yankees of the late '70's, which earned paul two more World Series rings for a total of four.

One year, when one of my Pony League teams got new uniforms but all the numbers started in the fifties -like we were all minor league pitchers who'd only be at spring training for a few weeks before going back to our minor league teams- I quickly grabbed #51 out of the box and ripped-off the shrink wrap because 5 + 1 = 6, Paul Blair's jersey number.

My last two years of playing NMB Optimist Football in the mid-1970's, for the 115-pound team, though I was primarily a defensive end and special teams player, I also wore #6 because... 
Plus, like him, I was the fastest player on my team.



Photo of Paul Blair at Orioles spring training HQ at Miami Stadium, Miami, FL.

Paul Blair was the one player I studied intensely on so many days and nights at O's exhibition games at Miami Stadium in the 1970's -with family and friends- when they were in their glory days, and I was looking for any hint of how to do things the right way -The Oriole Way, because that's how I wanted to do it, too. 


Once they closed camp and left for baltimore, I listened to the team and his personal exploits via Chuck Thompson and Bill O'Donnell's expert play-by-play and color commentary, back when the O's affiliate in Miami at the time, WGBS-AM, carried ALL their games. 

I'd listen to those games no matter where I was -which my parents didn't always appreciate- and l'd fall asleep at night with my small brightly-colored Radio Shack transistor radio under my pillow listening to West Coast road trips, back when the A's really were the Amazing A's.
(If they'd won that ALCS series with the A's in 1973 and '74, they'd have played in the World Series 5 out of 6 years and I definitely think they'd have beaten the Mets in '73 and the Reds in '74.)

Asd I have written here on the blog before, I was such a big Orioles fan that I not only had every Orioles yearbook from 1970 until I left for college in 1979, agonizing when they lost to Pirates in the World series, but in February and March, at least once a week, I'd catch buses at the 163rd Street Shopping Center out to Biscayne College where the Orioles' minor league teams trained, always hoping to see the new/next Don Baylor or Bobby Grich in-person.
In those pre-Internet days, I'd always hope to run into a Baltimore area media type who could point out who was who, esp. someone like John Steadman.

Every family car we had in the 1970's I made certain had the circular bumper sticker of the cartoon Oriole at bat, so everyone would know, esp. on vacations, like up to Asheville in the summer of 1972, when they were part of the O's minor league system, that I/we were real Oriole fans.

Paul Blair was always smiling, always friendly to fans, always hustling and always a great teammate. 
R.I.P. #6 #Class
-----




Photo of Paul Blair and son at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, MD.









Above, former Baltimore Colt RB/Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinee Lenny Moore, broadcaster Roy Firestone and former Orioles center fielder Paul Blair on Brooks Robinson Day, for the unveiling of the larger-than-life bronze sculpture of the Oriole Hall of Fame third baseman outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Sept. 29, 2012, Baltimore, MD.
Few would know how true this was more than Roy, whom I first met 41 years ago.
As I've written here before, at the time, Roy was a University of Miami student and was also working for Channel 4 Sports back when it was still Ralph Renick's WTVJ-TV, and their Sports Dept. was the class and envy of the state.
I was an 11-year old camper at the Bob Griese-Karl Noonan boys sports camp up in Boca Raton, where Roy was a counselor who soon became a friend because of his sense of humor, common sense and amazing knowledge of the same things I was most-interested in: sports, journalism and films.

When I was a senior at North Miami Beach High School and he was already working out in Los Angeles at KNX-TV, Roy was also one of the many people I spoke to and respected who recommended that I attend Syracuse and the S.I. Newhouse School of Communication, the home of so much of ESPN and the sports television and marketing establishment of the past thirty years.


But after things didn't work out financial aid-wise for my longtime first choice, The University of Southern California (USC) -who offered me a great deal of financial aid , but still not enough for me to swing it financially from Miami to Los Angeles, especially given how expensive it was to fly back and forth from LA to Miami back then- I went to IU, knowing only one person in the whole state of indiana, and they weren't in Bloomington. 

Syracuse just seemed too cold and isolated for me.

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