“Where’s the next grave at?” mom asked as I crawled back in the vehicle. I had finished visiting the grave of Civil War casualty Colonel James Cameron, who died during the First Battle of Bull Run. Note: More about Colonel Cameron can be found here: Colonel James Cameron.
“We’re headed to the opposite corner of the cemetery,” I spoke as I began following the roadways back towards the entrance on South Seventh Street. “We’re making a stop at the grave of another baseball player.”
“You know where he’s buried?” my father asked.
“The mausoleum in the corner of the cemetery,” I replied.
“Oh, you’re going to stop this time?” he laughed.
“I think I will on this trip,” I responded. On a previous venture into the cemetery, I wondered who was interred within the walls of the building and little did I know at that time, I would be back to visit it. I pulled to the side of the roadway and walked across the grassy field to the small, family mausoleum which stood in the corner of the cemetery.
The family names above the door identified the mausoleum as holding the remains of the Stein and Blair family. I immediately noticed a piece of paper placed behind the iron gate and walked closer to see what it said. The weathered piece of paper identified the famous man resting within as Walter Allen “Heavy” Blair, whose baseball career included seven seasons in the Major Leagues.
Walter Allen “Heavy” Blair was born October 13, 1883, a son of Matthew and Janet Blair in Tioga County in the collection of houses known as Landrus. After graduating from Wellsboro, Blair attended classes at Bucknell, where he graduated in 1907. Note: Many sources state in was born in Arnot in Tioga County instead of Landrus. This – I believe – is due to Arnot being the largest town in the vicinity.
Blair attended Bucknell for two years before leaving college in 1902 to pursue a professional career in baseball. The right-hander was a noted catcher whose silent, consistant work ethic was noted by all players and clubs. From 1905 to 1907, he began playing baseball for Williamsport in the Tri-State League as their outstanding catcher. Williamsport won the pendant for the league in both 1905 and 1907.
In his personal life, Blair married Margaret Stein of Lewisburg in 1907. They settled in Lewisburg, a place he would call home the rest of his life and in the off-season he would work in his father-in-law’s grocery. The couple had two children.
Near the end of the 1907 season, Blair would join the New York Highlanders of the American League – the team that would eventually become the Yankees. He remained with the team through the 1911 season, playing both in the Majors and in the Minor League system during his time with the team. The 1910 season he only made six appearances for the Highlanders, spending his season with the Rochester team in their farm system. That season he set a league record, catching in 145 of the 154 games played the year.
At the end of the 1911 season, Blair would return to Rochester until 1914 when he played for the Buffalo Blues in the Federal League. Initially a catcher, he would also take over the reins of manager with the departure of Harold “Prince Hal” Chase. Blair would remain with Buffalo for both years of its existence. Note: while researching his career, many places state he played for the Buffalo Buffeds, which was not the team. After reading through many articles, I found where Buffeds came from. Many newspapers refer to the team as Buf-Feds, being Buffalo-Federal League and at some point, the hyphen in the name was accidently dropped.
In the seven years Blair played in the Major Leagues, he played in 442 games with 272 hits, forty-two doubles, eleven triples, three homeruns and 106 RBIs.
In 1916, Blair would become part-owner and a player-manager of Harrisburg’s team in the New York State League, and would own it until the time of his death. After retiring from professional baseball, Blair coached baseball at the University of Pittsburgh for the 1917 season. At the end of that season, he returned to Lewisburg and took over his father-in-law’s grocery.
In 1919, Bucknell approached Blair to coach baseball. He did so for one season before being replaced by George Cockill. In 1925, Blair was approached again by Bucknell to coach the baseball team and he would coach the team for the 1926 and 1927 seasons. Blair would take over coaching responsibilities from another former Bucknell player – Harry “Moose” McCormick. Note: More about Moose McCormick can be found here: Harry “Moose” McCormick.
Walter Blair died at his home on August 20, 1948. He was sixty-four years old at the time of his death. After he passed, he was taken to the Lewisburg Cemetery and placed to rest in the family mausoleum.
I finished paying my respects before leaving Walter Blair resting within the grounds of Lewisburg Cemetery, just yards from the University that was an important part of his life.