Divorced from World Series ring, Blair is still in love with baseball

John Steadman

November 05, 1990|By John Steadman

First reaction to the advertisement carried in a national memorabilia collector's publication is that Paul Blair must be in deep financial trouble. Could this be another former athlete hitting the skids, so desperate he is forced to hock the personal treasures gained from his baseball accomplishments?

The announcement circulating around the country lists his 1970 World Series ring for sale at $3,800. Yes, the keepsake every player aspires to own: a World Series ring. Sentimental value would seem to deter putting a price on it, but divorce proceedings intervened.

Blair was a superb centerfielder for the Baltimore Orioles and last season was a coach of their Rochester Red Wings' Triple A farm club until he left with only a month of the schedule remaining. He is looking for a job that could lead to a future as a manager. He wasn't even aware his 1970 World Series ring was for sale.

"I didn't know it until you just told me," he said. "My ex-wife had those rings. She must have sold them."

Confirmation of what Blair surmised came from Art Jaffe, a New York dealer who is the current owner of the ring. Jaffe bought it at an auction in April and has a letter from an attorney substantiating its authenticity -- that it was won and worn by Blair after the Orioles defeated the Cincinnati Reds in 1970.

"I've got to get a new set of rings," said Blair. He was on six World Series teams, including the 1970 Orioles, when he led all hitters with a batting average of .474. But, unfortunately, his 1970 ring is gone.

After talking about plans to "get a new set of rings," Blair explained he didn't lose all six Series rings to his ex-wife. There were four rings for winning and two for finishing second. "I've still got my 1977 and 1966. The first one in '66 was the most important. After that, it was all icing on the cake."

Certainly a man can't go through life wearing six World Series rings on his fingers, although some might try. Hearing from Blair that he still has his '66 ring was significant because collectors a year ago claimed it, too, was being "shopped."

Jaffe says the 1970 ring he has at the store he operates, known as Left Field Collectibles, "shows some wear, as if Paul might have worn another ring right alongside of it and they rubbed together, but it's strong looking and has a three-quarter carat diamond.

"The price of $3,800 isn't a lot for a Series ring. I saw one of Sal Maglie's for $8,000 and one of Pie Traynor's for $15,000. And one of Babe Ruth's is worth $250,000 but, of course, there was only one Babe and anything he signed or touched has high value."

Blair doesn't seem worried about the rings that have left his fingers. He is concerned about another opportunity in baseball, after previous coaching stints in the farm systems of the Houston Astros and New York Yankees as well as the Orioles. And for 1 1/2 years he coached baseball at Fordham University, where the enjoyment was priceless but the salary $5,000.

His departure from the Orioles' minor-league system was without bitterness or vindictiveness. He was told he wasn't going to be considered to manage for the Orioles, so he wanted the option to look elsewhere.

"It was terribly frustrating in Rochester," he said. "Me and the manager [Greg Biagini] didn't get along at all. I don't want to coach. I want to manage. I want to show I can do the job. I'm not bitter. I just want the chance to manage my own club at any level.

"I want to manage, to have my own club and utilize my own ideas. I didn't expect the Orioles to create a vacancy."

But he's finding general managers and farm directors aren't returning calls, which is tantamount to rejection and a tale all too familiar to numerous former players.

Doug Melvin, the Orioles' assistant general manager/director of player personnel, believed in spring training that Blair was going to be productive in helping the minor-league players. "Paul has a lot of knowledge and a lot to offer," Melvin said.

But as Blair reaches out for another opportunity, a desire to be his own boss, he's reminded of the World Series ring that's for sale. "Just let people know I would like to manage," he emphasized. "Personally, I'm doing fine. Not rich, not poor but paying my bills."

And somewhere a stranger who never played in a World Series is going to write a check and put what used to be Paul Blair's property on his finger, which should be more of an embarrassment for the wearer than it is for the man who lost it in a divorce settlement.

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