Hall of Fame Dinner Features Former Orioles Standout

Former O’s standout Paul Blair addressed the Hall of Fame banquet recently.

The 19th annual Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame banquet featured induction speeches long and short, with a few funny moments and some quite poignant. It also featured a true former All-Star, long-time Baltimore Orioles outfielder Paul Blair, who played on four World Series champion teams with the Birds and the New York Yankees.

The latest members inducted into the local Hall last Sunday were Vinton area sandlot coach Rick Carr, Franklin County native Gary Gilmore, now the baseball coach at Coastal Carolina University, Glenvar High School coach Billy Wells and local booster Dick Williams.  “Being selected is the high point of my career,” said Wells, who is also the official scorer for the Salem Red Sox.

Blair, the keynote speaker, recalled that he first signed with the New York Mets, “of all people,” still bristling at the Orioles World Series loss in 1969 to the upstart team.  He called ’69 “the worst year of my life.” That late ’60’s, early ’70’s Baltimore club was “probably the best team…in that era,” added Blair, ticking off the names of stars like Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson.

What has happened to the sad sack Orioles recently is “absolutely devastating” to Blair. “That was the best organization in all of baseball. And now we’re the worst.”

Blair said he is “very disappointed” with the attitude of many current players. “It’s totally changed. Now it’s all about how much money I can make, and not how many championships I can win. The game is not what it used to be.”

In all Blair played on ten teams that took first place honors, and he helped the Yankees win World Series rings in 1977 and 1978.  His take on playing on a winner in New York, even for a hothead manager like Billy Martin?  “Nothing like it,” said Blair, a Maryland resident who is content to play golf in retirement now.

More than 80 people are now enshrined in the Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame, located near Salem Memorial Baseball Stadium.  Blair said doing things “from the heart,” can pay off, even with induction into a local Hall of Fame. “It gives other people an incentive. If you do well and dedicate yourself to young kids, every now and then you’re going to get rewarded.”

By Gene Marrano
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