Louis "Buddy" Blair
Sport: Track and Field
Induction Year: 1981
Louis Nathan “Buddy” Blair was Louisiana’s man for all season in the 1930s. Blair was a member of Louisiana State University teams that won a national championship in one sport and mythical national title in another—and he reached the major leagues in still another sport.
His versatility was especially evident in track and field. Two weeks after he took fourth place in the javelin throw to help LSU win the 1933 national collegiate title, Blair won the national AAU championship in the hop, step and jump over Olympian Rolland Romero of Loyola. Blair was a state high school champion in both the javelin and pole vault, sharing high point honors with Ralph Newell of DeQuincy in the 1931 state rally.
Blair’s fourth place javelin throw in the 1933 NCAA meet was 195 feet, 6 ½ inches, but his personal best (in 1934) was 213 feet, 7 inches—less than 10 feet under the American record at that time. It was the LSU record until Shreveport’s Joe May got off a throw of 218 feet in the 1955 Southwestern Relays.
After the LSU basketball team’s post-season victory over Pittsburgh in 1935, Blair spent three days practicing the hop, step and jump and won the Penn Relays with a leap of 48 feet, 10 inches. In his senior year at LSU, he competed in the broad jump (now long jump) in the SEC meet—hoping to score one point and earn a gold track shoe. Although he hadn’t tried the even since high school, he won the conference championship with a leap of 23 feet, 4 ½ inches.
He was training for the decathlon in the 1936 Olympics when he signed a pro baseball contract, ending his track career.
The only sports offered by Sicily Island High School when Blair was growing up were basketball and track. But he also played semi-pro baseball.
Before 1937, there was no official national collegiate basketball champion. But LSU had an outstanding team in 1935, and Coach Harry Rabenhorst arranged a post-season game at Atlantic City with a Pittsburgh team coached by the legendary Henry “Doc” Carlson.
Here is the Associated Press account of the game:
“Louisiana State University, power in the Southeastern conference, came from far behind tonight to defeat the University of Pittsburgh, Eastern Conference champion, by 41-37 in their intersectional basketball game.”
“The Bayou Tigers from Baton Rouge, trailing 26-17 at the half, smothered Pittsburgh in the second period with their flashy passing and scored goal after goal from the field.
“Buddy Blair, Louisiana’s sharpshooting forward, tallied nine field goals and two foul shots to score nearly half of the Tigers’ points.”
The words “national championship” aren’t mentioned in that account, but LSU claimed a mythical national title for the victory. That gives Blair the unique distinction of being the only LSU athlete who played on national champion teams in two sports.
The other startes on the LSU basketball team that capped a 14-1 season with its victory over Pittsburgh were guards Malcolm “Sparky” Wade and Ben Journeay, center Lloyd “Shongaloo” Lindsey and forward Jack Harris.
The colorful Wade was the most spectacular player, and he won all-tournament honors in the Southeastern Conference tournaments three years in a row. But Blair, described as “a bolt of greased lighting,” was the top offensive threat.
Blair signed a professional baseball contract with the New York Yankees one year later, and hit .326 for the Norfolk team to win a berth on the Piedmont League all-star team. A year later, he hit .327 for Binghampton in the Class A Eastern League and once again was an all-star selection.
In 1938, he was playing for the Newark Bears in the International League. Blair’s roommate was Charlie Keller, and he recalled another teammate, Bob Seeds, hitting seven straight home runs. But a knee injury suffered in a collision with Jimmy Gleeson limited Blair to 50 games that year, and the Yankees sent him to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for surgery after the season.
Blair eventually made it to the big leagues with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, hitting .279 in the 1942 American League season. Then his baseball career was interrupted by World War II. After a three-year stint in the Air Force, he managed minor league teams in Vicksburg, Miss., and Alexandria, La., before settling in Monroe, La.
At LSU, Blair, Wade, Harris, and Journeay remained intact as a unit through four seasons. Coached by George Tannehill and Monroe Larkin, they posted a 12-0 record as freshmen with only one opponent—the New Orleans Athletic Club—holding the margin under double digits.
When they moved up to the varsity, the same group posted a 15-8 record in 1932-33 and a 13-4 record one year later to set the stage for the championship season. The Tigers and Kentucky both had perfect records in the 1934-35 in Southeastern Conference play, but no conference tournament was held and they were listed as co-champions.
Pittsburgh jumped off to an early 18-4 lead in the post-season matchup at Atlantic City, but Blair scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half as the Tigers pulled even at 33-33. Holding Pitt’s star guard, Claire Cribbs, to 10 points, Blair scored the last four field goals for the winning margin. Lindsey, with four field goals, was the only other LSU player who made more than one basket.
Blair won nine letters at LSU—three apiece in basketball, baseball and track. In addition to the national titles, official and mythical, he was remembered for hitting a 550-foot home run.
In 1992, Blair was the last surviving member of LSU’s legendary “five-man team” that won the 1933 NCAA track title. (Actually, LSU had 10 entries in the meet, but only five scored.) All five are in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. The other four were Glenn “Slats” hardin, Jack Torrance, Matt Gordy and Al Moreau.
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