SABR

Curt Blefary

This article was written by John Henshell.

Curtis Le Roy Blefary is best remembered for winning the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1965. He had three productive seasons for the Orioles before his intertwined personal demons, alcohol and anger, overcame his terrific natural ability. Blefary was a key contributor to the Orioles' pennant in 1966. The left-handed hitter was an outfielder during his three solid seasons, and subsequently became a regular catcher and first baseman.

Blefary was born in Brooklyn, New York, on July 5, 1943, and grew up in Mahwah, New Jersey, which is in Bergen County at the New York border. His father, an AT&T employee, named him after Curt Davis, a Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher at the time of Blefary's birth. Davis won 19 games as a rookie for the Phillies in 1934, later won 22 games for the Cardinals, and was coming off a 15-6, 2.36 ERA season for the Dodgers when his namesake was born.

The Bergen Record honored the Mahwah High School ballplayer as a member of their "Best of the Century" team. Blefary was a third baseman until his senior year when he was converted to catcher. He was also an all-state halfback on the high school football team. Curt knew he was a gifted athlete, and had developed a reputation for cockiness during his school years.

Graduating from high school four years before major league baseball instituted the amateur draft, Blefary went on to star for the Wagner College Seahawks football team in the fall of 1961. The powerhouse New York Yankees shelled out $18,000 to sign the local kid in 1962. In contrast, Jim Bouton staged a "hold out" before the 1964 season because he felt he deserved $20,000 after winning 21 games for the Yankees in 1963. The Biographic Encyclopedia says that Blefary reportedly received a $40,000 bonus, a figure confirmed both by Doug Brown (Sport, June 1966) and Richard Goldstein (New York Times, 1/30/01).

Blefary's high school classmate Richard E. Robbins remembers the $18,000 figure. "His dad let him buy a car for a few thousand and made him invest the rest in AT&T stock," Robbins reflected. "Apparently he sold the stock somewhere along the way. If he hadn't, he wouldn't have had any money worries later in life." In addition to the bonus, the Yankees agreed to pay his tuition and expenses at Wagner during the off-seasons.

The Yankees sent Blefary to Greensboro in 1962 and tried him as an outfielder. He hit two home runs in his first full game. His first-year performance (.240 with 13 home runs, 39 RBI and eight stolen bases in 66 games) did not earn him a promotion for the 1963 season. However, his temper and attitude might have concerned the Yankees more than his batting average. He scared everyone by throwing bats and helmets. Joe DiMaggio was bemused by Blefary's intensity in spring training, but expressed confidence in the kid's future.

Blefary demonstrated serious slugging potential in 1963. He was acquired by the Orioles on first-year waivers in a transaction that was never adequately explained by the Yankees. The Yankees acquired veteran utilityman Harry Bright from the Reds on April 21. Blefary had been protected on the 40-man roster, but had stitches in his leg at the time Bright was purchased. Blefary was relegated to pinch-hitting duty while his leg healed. Various accounts of why the Yankees risked losing Blefary have been reported. In one version, Yankee general manager Ralph Houk said Blefary was "expendable." Given the Yankees' huge investment, that explanation is hard to believe, although Houk or another Yankee official might have actually told that to the media. No documentation suggests that the Yankees attributed Blefary's behavioral problems to anything but immaturity, so his behavior wasn't a factor. Another reported theory is that the Yankees made a technical mistake and were surprised when the Orioles claimed Blefary. Sport offered a plausible, but convoluted explanation. The magazine claimed that New York's front office told Curt to sit in the stands while he was on waivers. The theory is that the Yankees wanted to exaggerate the severity of the injury. Blefary defied orders to keep quiet and told a Baltimore scout that he was fine. Regardless, the promising slugger was crushed by the deal; he claimed he had turned down more money from other teams because he wanted to play for the Yankees.

Baltimore initially kept their new acquisition at Greensboro, where he hit .289 and slugged 25 home runs with 67 RBI in 88 games. In 40 games with Elmira in the Eastern League he had four home runs and 17 RBI, hitting .247. Blefary also played first base and had his first professional experience as a catcher. The Elmira trainer nicknamed him "Cadillac Curt" because of his grandstanding home run trots. Cadillac Curt basked in success and fired equipment at the dugout wall when unsuccessful.

The birds sent him to the Florida Instructional League in the fall of 1963. Oriole scout Dee Phillips counseled him to control his temper if he wanted to reach the majors. Blefary thought he was ready to jump to the majors in 1964, but the Orioles sent him to AAA Rochester. "Nothing depresses me; I will be back," he asserted. Curt played first, second, and third base as well as the outfield for Rochester. He had an outstanding season, hitting 31-80-.287, while leading the International League with 102 walks. Curt and Eileen married in the winter.

Boog Powell played leftfield for the Orioles in 1964. Bill Wise politely said in the "1965 Official Baseball Almanac" that the behemoth "seemed less lost in the field than he had the year before." Sam Bowens (22-71-.263) had been a pleasant surprise for the Orioles in right field. Veteran Norm Siebern didn't display much punch at first base. If Powell moved there, the Orioles could make room for Blefary in leftfield.

In spite of complaining to the media that manager Hank Bauer didn't play him enough in spring training, Blefary made the 1965 Orioles as a 6' 2", 195-pound rookie. He explained, "Sometimes my mouth would get into gear before my brain was engaged. I did not get to the big leagues being shy. I got the attitude from my father. He said, 'Do not even try to make it son, unless you really believe you are the best. Otherwise you are going to be heartbroken.' "

In each year of his career, Blefary had a chip on his shoulder about something. In each case, he was arguably right, but that did not endear him to anyone but reporters with an agenda that was counterproductive to his own. Blefary's issue as a rookie was platooning. Casey Stengel had platooned Bauer, and the ex-Marine manager was a believer in the merits of the system. Powell and Siebern split first base equally. Blefary and Powell split left field; Blefary and Bowens split right field. Russ Snyder (1-29-.270), another left-handed hitter, got 345 at-bats as a utility outfielder. The results of the position sharing made a case for Curt, primarily because Bowens hit the sophomore jinx, hitting a dismal 7-20-.163 in 203 at-bats. Bowens was the only right-handed hitter of the bunch.

As Powell had an off year, Blefary led the Orioles with 22 home runs and 88 walks. He finished third in the league in on-base percentage (.381) and ninth in slugging percentage (.470). Setting a trend, he batted .367 with six circuit clouts against the Yankees. Bauer loved Blefary's hustle and competitiveness. The results of his season earned him the Rookie of the Year award. The balloting was close: Marcelino Lopez (14-13, 2.93 ERA) of the Angels was preferred by eight of the 20 writers. Willie Horton was the pre-season favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award. The June 4 issue of Time contained an article about the '65 rookie crop with the subhead "Best in History?" By the time the last pitch was thrown, the '65 group didn't distinguish itself as better than typical.

Blefary wanted to control his temper and improve his statistical performance in 1966. "The so-called sophomore jinx is just a lot of horseradish," he swore, "It's all mental. I don't expect to have any jinx." With the addition of Frank Robinson, the promising Orioles ran away with the American League pennant. Blefary did avoid the jinx and compiled on-base and slugging percentages that were within a few points of his rookie marks, and again ranked in the top ten in the league. Robinson was confounded by Blefary's plate discipline. "He was amazing," Robby recalled, "He would wait at the plate for his pitch, and refused to swing at anything else. [It] drove me crazy. He would wait for his pitch and hit it." In his only World Series, Blefary went 1 for 13 with a pair of walks.

He hit five more home runs against the Yankees in 1966. Blefary told Sports Illustrated, "Those seats in right field... were made for me." Eventually he earned a level of respect unwarranted by his performance against other teams: New York pitchers walked him a total of seven times in consecutive games.

Articles about Blefary continued to document his temper tantrums on and off the field, and he seemed an oddly compliant source for those stories. His unusual eating habits were also fodder for celebrity-hungry journalists. He loved the celebrity lifestyle and enjoyed the nightclubs. The unique young man had the capacity to drink at night and get up and have clam chowder and hamburgers for breakfast. At the same time, his cocker spaniel Long Ball would be treated to scrambled eggs and Coke.

Blefary's fielding reputation was legendary in his own time. He was an inexperienced and graceless outfielder when he reached the major leagues. As a result, Frank Robinson nicknamed him "Clank" after the sound of the ball rebounding from his glove (Blefary was also nicknamed "Cuckoo"). When the team bus passed a pile of scrap iron, Robinson told Blefary, "Go get yourself another glove." Although the legend was exaggerated, his range was poor for a guy with average speed. His error totals were always close to the league average. He had a strong, but not necessarily accurate, throwing arm. Strat-O-Matic, an accurate baseball simulation game, never rated him better than a "4" at any position (their lowest possible defensive rating). His throwing ratings as an outfielder and as a catcher never varied significantly from average. On opening day of the 1967 season, he made a great catch to rob Rich Rollins of a home run.

While Blefary was a better outfielder than Boog Powell, Baltimore entered '67 with three left-handed sluggers, none of whom could help the team in the outfield. Mike Epstein, The Sporting News 1966 Minor League Player of the Year, was a poor defensive first baseman. The Orioles sent him to the Florida Instructional League to learn left field. The experiment continued in spring training, much to the consternation of the proud Blefary. Blefary still got his at-bats. Hank Bauer tried him as a catcher after Powell accidentally stepped on backup catcher Charlie Lau's toe, in case Lau wasn't ready to open the season. Blefary also experimented with switch-hitting. He had been a switch-hitter in high school. Curt asserted that he had more power right-handed. Presumably, Bauer wasn't impressed.

Trade rumors, especially in the gossipy Sporting News, were rampant. Years later, Jim Palmer told Larry Stone that the Cubs were willing to trade Billy Williams for Blefary and Epstein. Palmer claimed that owner Jerry Hoffberger told general manager Harry Dalton, "You can make that trade, but you'd better be right" (TSN 2/2/98). He would have been: Williams outlasted both much younger players and had the seasons that created the mold to cast his Hall-of-Fame bust in 1970 and 1972. The Sporting News also claimed that Dalton turned down offers from the White Sox for Bruce Howard or Joel Horlen for Blefary. Epstein was traded to the Senators in early 1967, but Blefary trade rumors continued throughout that season. The Angels were one of the alleged suitors. Blefary hit three home runs in one game against them; one was a grand slam.

Curt's batting average declined to .242, but he played a little more and drove in a career-high 81 runs. He ranked in the top 10 in the AL in HR (22) and RBI. The Orioles skidded to sixth place with a losing record, primarily due to key injuries to the pitching staff.

Spring training was eventful for Blefary again. In mid-March, Bauer suddenly moved him to catcher. Andy Etchebarren was considered a good-field, no-hit catcher. Bauer said the move was no more than an experiment. The fact that Etchebarren batted right-handed must have entered into his thinking. Blefary noted, "I came to the Yankees as a catcher, but when they sent me to Greensboro the catcher there was off on a hitting tear. So they used me as a first baseman. The next spring I was spiked at home plate and I couldn't squat. So back I went to first again."

The experiment was successful enough to entice Bauer to use Blefary as a C-OF-1B in much the same way the Yankees used their catchers in the late '50s and early '60s. He caught in 40 games, one of them the no-hitter pitched by Tom Phoebus April 27. After averaging 22-71-.252 from 1965-67, Blefary slipped to 15-39-.199556 in "the year of the pitcher." He said his hitting suffered from playing too many positions. His batting average had declined in each season, but so had the league's. Blefary still exceeded the league average on-base percentage in 1968 (.301-.294). However, in the previous three seasons he had exceeded the league average on-base and slugging percentages by huge margins.

Earl Weaver, who had managed Blefary in the minors, took over the Orioles during the 1968 season. The team rebounded to win 91 games, but finished a distant second.

When Weaver told the media that Blefary would have to compete for an outfield job in 1969, that triggered a tirade and a trade. The week before the trade, The Sporting News suggested Blefary would be traded to California for Jim McGlothlin (10-15, 3.55 ERA), who also experienced a significant performance decline in 1968. Instead, the O's made a deal with Houston that was subsequently regarded as an extremely unbalanced trade. Blefary and minor leaguer John Mason went to the Astros for Mike Cuellar, prospect Enzo Hernandez, and minor leaguer Elijah Johnson. Hernandez later became part of the package that netted the Orioles Pat Dobson. He spent six seasons as an average-field, no-hit, semi-regular shortstop for the Padres. The trade helped the Orioles become as good as any team in baseball history in 1969. Cuellar was the co-Cy Young Award winner and averaged 21 wins per season from 1969-1974.

To put the trade in the perspective and context of its time, hitters were far more valuable than pitchers in '68. Cuellar signed in 1957, but didn't have his first good major league season until 1966 at age 29. The Astros finished last in 1968, despite winning 72 games, the highest total ever for a last place team. Jim Wynn was the only player on the team to hit more than six home runs! The other four regular starters all won more games than Cuellar, although Cuellar had the best ERA. Clearly, the team desperately needed power more than a 32-year-old pitcher. However, the Astros failed to understand their ballpark for many years, and kept acquiring sluggers who had been more productive elsewhere. Harry "the Hat" Walker had taken over as manager during the 1968 season and wanted to create the team in his own image. From that perspective, Blefary was a horrendous fit.

After the trade, The Sporting News (12/21/68) reported that Curt said, "Weaver and I don't see eye-to-eye, period. He was a decent guy in the minors, but now he's speaking out of turn. He's a coach half a year and then he becomes a manager and crucifies me." He added, "So I had a bad year...I had three good ones before this."

Defense was a problem for the 1969 Astros. Rusty Staub was projected to be the first baseman, with Blefary, Wynn, and Joe Morgan in the outfield. Although Morgan became a great defensive second baseman by the mid-'70s, he took so many years to become adequate at the position that Houston planned to move him to the outfield (as they had to do with Sonny Jackson) in spring training. Instead, Staub, who became the power hitter the Astros needed, was traded to the expansion Expos. Punchless outfielder Jesus Alou came in the package. Morgan moved back to 2B, Denis Menke moved back to SS, and Blefary became the first baseman.

A trio of young power pitchers kept the Astros in the new NL West race. The team was 69-63, with all five non-expansion teams in the race entering September. Houston dropped to .500 and finished fifth.

Although Blefary hit in the .170s against left-handers in 1967 and 1968, Walker played him almost regularly. He hit only .195 against left-handers, but had a decent season overall, hitting 12-67-.253. Remarkably, he didn't hit a home run for Houston until their 82nd game. He had career highs of 26 doubles, seven triples, and eight stolen bases, while slugging .393. His 77 walks ranked tenth in the NL and contributed to a .347 on-base percentage. He exceeded the league averages of .250/.317/.369, but not by significant margins for a poor-fielding first baseman. However, considering his ballpark, his numbers were quite respectable and represented a comeback.

Regardless, Curt was unhappy in Houston. Fortunately for him, the Yankees also had a problematic, controversial player in Joe Pepitone. Pepitone slugged 27 homers in 1969 and played excellent first base, but hit only .242, and was accused of loving off-the-field excesses more than baseball. Both teams wanted to trade their misfits and loved the potential of the other team's player: It was a match made in Houston. The even swap was consummated December 4, exactly a year after the Astros acquired Blefary.

After the trade, John Wilson blasted Blefary in The Sporting News (12/20/69): "Blefary has failed to see eye-to-eye with his last two managers, Harry Walker at Houston and Earl Weaver at Baltimore. He showed a lack of restraint in expressing displeasure with the way he was being handled and asked to be traded from both teams."

Wilson accurately reported that Blefary had publicly expressed his displeasure with his immediate supervisor. Walker responded that Blefary hurt himself by blaming his troubles on others. "He ought to grow up and take a good look at himself," Walker asserted. Harry the Hat claimed he taught Blefary bat control and discipline with high pitches. Walker's philosophy was right for the Astrodome, and Blefary hit to all fields as instructed, but he longed to hit long balls. Trading for a slugger and turning him into a line drive hitter is somewhat analogous to trading for a player and converting him to a different position: for the strategy to fully succeed, the player has to have the right attitude about it. Blefary had a gung-ho attitude and aggressive style of play that any manager could love, but his pride and short temper were unmanageable in his era.

Blefary wore number 13 in Houston. The choice was iconoclastic and controversial in that era. However, his willingness to room with Don Wilson was far more daring. The duo was one of baseball's first pair of interracial roommates, the first with a team based in the south. (Chuck Dobson and Reggie Jackson had became roommates in 1968 for Oakland.) The 1960s were the most volatile period for race relations in American history. Legislation mandated integration, but members of various races were slow to accept each other as peers. In that era, white people who openly embraced members of other races were often victims of covert and overt discrimination, especially in the former confederate states. You could argue that Blefary played the most significant role in integrating the game of any white player in baseball history, but the case is hard to make simply because his role has been so minimally documented.

The Astros acquired Jim Bouton for the stretch run in 1969. In Ball Four, Bouton said, "I'm getting a big kick out of Blefary. He's called Buff, short for 'Buffalo,' because he works so hard. If I had to be in a foxhole I'd like him in there with me. He's the kind who picks up hand grenades and throws them back. He's a perfect marine, yet he doesn't seem to have the marine mentality. One winter he spent his time, not selling mutual funds, but working with retarded children." Bouton characterized Blefary as rough, rowdy, and gregarious.

Curt felt the trade to New York was the best thing that had happened in his career in a long time. "It was like an early Christmas present," he said. The Yankee Yearbook quoted Blefary as saying, "I know it sounds corny, but I always wanted to play for New York. It's my home and wearing the pinstripes and standing in the same batter's box where Babe Ruth stood does something to me." On opening day, he enthused, "This is a lifelong dream come true at last. I'm finally playing at Yankee Stadium as a Yankee."

The Yankees knew they were getting a Yankee-killer who had hit very well in their ballpark. In four years with Baltimore, Blefary hit .299 with a dozen homers against New York. Only half of those long balls came in the Bronx, but he hit .324 there. The 1970 Yankees had a deep pitching staff and an exciting nucleus of young talent led by Roy White, Bobby Murcer, and Rookie-of-the-Year Thurman Munson. Veterans Blefary and Danny Cater were expected to solve weaknesses.

Under different circumstances, Yankee Stadium might have been a panacea for Blefary. Ralph Houk's laissez-faire management style gave Curt the same type of release that a student of a repressive teacher might experience with a substitute. He abandoned trying to hit singles and doubles in favor of trying to hit every pitch he swung at out of the park. As a result, he failed to do either. Hickoksports.com once quoted Blefary as saying, "Home runs are the root of all evil. You hit a couple and every time up, you're looking to hit the ball out. Next thing you know, you're in a slump." As in 1969, Blefary went an amazingly long stretch before hitting his first home run of the season. He hit it on June 2 off former teammate Moe Drabowsky. Afterwards, Curt praised Ralph Houk, "He really has been great all through my long slump. He just kept telling me to hang in there and it would come." Also as in 1969, the guy in uniform number 13 hit home runs at well above his established rate once he got the first one behind him. That wasn't enough to salvage his season. He lost playing time in right field to Ron Woods, Jim Lyttle, and others and finished at 9-37-.212 with 43 walks in 269 at-bats. The Yankees won 93 games, but didn't challenge the great Orioles. With glove men Jerry Kenney and Gene Michael experiencing huge declines in batting average, the contrast was stark: the Yankees needed a slugger in right field.

Former number one draft choice Ron Blomberg appeared to be a solution for New York. Still, Blefary was in his prime, and in spite of his disappointing 1968 and 1970 seasons, he deserved one more chance to prove he was a viable major league hitter. He was 7 for 36, primarily as a pinch-hitter, when the Yankees traded him to the Oakland Athletics for left-hander Rob Gardner May 26, 1971. Oakland used him as a pinch-hitter and utilityman. He caught in 14 games (his first experience in that role since 1968), and played second base, third base, and the outfield. Overall, he hit a familiar .212 in just 137 at-bats. With his power and plate discipline, he was a valuable role player.

With tough Dick Williams as his manager, Blefary understood that he was in no position to complain. As spring training began in 1972, he told The Sporting News, "I've got three things to do this spring. I'm going to get in shape, take my swings, and keep my mouth shut." Instead, as spring training ended, he reprised his "play-me-or-trade-me" refrain. He had 5 hits in 11 at-bats when the A's honored his request on May 17. They shipped Blefary, left-hander Mike Kilkenny, and a player to be named later (minor leaguer Greg Schubert) to San Diego in exchange for right fielder "Downtown" Ollie Brown. Brown, then 28, was off to a horrendous start for the Padres, but on the surface, the deal made little sense for either team. Brown was a key player during the Padres first three seasons. Oakland had a solid outfield with Reggie Jackson in right field. Both teams may have perceived that they were trading problems, and salaries may have been a factor.

Blefary, with his fifth team in five years, was reduced to being a journeyman utility player. He filled the same role for struggling San Diego as he had for pennant-winning Oakland. He hit .196 in 102 at-bats and was released by the Padres in December. A month later, he was signed by the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves released Blefary during spring training of 1973 at just 29 years of age. He could not get a job with another team. In 1986, he explained to John Eisenberg of The Baltimore Sun, "Evidently, I did something to somebody during my career, because there is no way a 29-year-old, left-handed-hitting catcher cannot hook up with someone, not even in Japan. No one has ever told me what it was. For me to be through then was ridiculous. I had 10 years left. I have never known what happened. There are several things I can touch on: I was very outspoken; I let my mouth get me into trouble even though I knew I was right. There might be times when you have been partying too much and someone sees you and puts a label on you. It could have been different things. No one will tell me."

Curt hit .237 with 112 home runs and 382 RBI in 974 games in his eight-year career. The abrupt end of that career devastated him. His personal life suffered a similar downward spiral. His marriage ended in divorce. He wore blue collars, white collars, a sheriff's uniform, and a bartender's apron, but couldn't find satisfying work. For years, he and baseball avoided each other.

Blefary later sought baseball jobs, but never got one. He returned to New Jersey and tried several occupations. He sold cars and insurance. He served customers in bars and fast-food restaurants. He took a temporary agency job at $4.25 per hour. He drove a truck. Eventually, he and his second wife Lana settled in the Virgin Islands and Florida. He owned a nightclub, Curt's Coo Coo Lounge, in Dania, Florida.

By the mid-1980s, Blefary found solace in old-timers games and autograph events. He loved getting together with other former ballplayers. He served as a volunteer coach for the Northeast High School team in Fort Lauderdale, the long-time spring training home of the Yankees. He wrote an instructional booklet, "Curt Blefary's 'Way to Play,'" which he hoped to have published, but self-published instead. Even as his health failed in his later years, he hoped to secure a professional coaching job. Lana Blefary said, "He was a lifelong student of the game." Curt reveled in his past glory, cherishing his 1966 World Series ring. Lana reflected, "He gloated about it for the rest of his life. He loved Baltimore, and he loved his fans."

Blefary experienced a variety of health and financial problems. He had hip replacement surgery in late 1994 or early 1995. The surgeon performed the work pro bono. In February 1995, Jennifer Frey of the New York Times conducted a revealing interview with the former player. For the first time, Blefary publicly documented his drinking problem. He admitted that his reputation as a drinker and carouser kept him out of the game. "In the big leagues, I was out of control," he confessed, "I was a drinker for 33 years. I started when I was 18. By Triple A, I was drinking hard liquor." Blefary believed that his drinking was encouraged by society, and perhaps his peers as well. "I had a problem," he claimed, "But nobody ever had the guts to tell me." With financial help from the Baseball Assistance Team, he completed Sam McDowell's alcohol rehabilitation program in 1994. He had regularly attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for 11 years, but that didn't work.

In the Times article, Blefary offered prophetic warnings to Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, who were both dealing with substance-abuse problems and trying to resurrect their careers. "It seems like everybody is telling them that it's going to be all right, and they believe it," Blefary said, "Well, it ain't going to be all right, not if they're still in denial. I've been there. I know." Like Blefary, the former Mets stars let their addictions destroy their careers, even though they played in a more enlightened era.

In the last years of his life, Blefary suffered from chronic pancreatitis. The disease and problems it caused eventually took his life. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, a service of the National Institutes of Health, "Chronic pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes attack and destroy the pancreas and nearby tissues, causing scarring and pain. The usual cause of chronic pancreatitis is many years of alcohol abuse, but the chronic form may also be triggered by only one acute attack, especially if the pancreatic ducts are damaged." The service explains, "Damage from alcohol abuse may not appear for many years, and then a person may have a sudden attack of pancreatitis. In up to 70 percent of adult patients, chronic pancreatitis appears to be caused by alcoholism. This form is more common in men than in women and often develops between the ages of 30 and 40."

Curt Blefary died Sunday, January 28, 2001, at his home in Pompano Beach, Florida. "It's good that his suffering is over now," Lana Blefary was quoted as saying in the AP obituary. He left behind his wife, two daughters, a son, three grandchildren, and two sisters.

At one time, Blefary expressed a desire to be buried in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. However, Curt outlived the demolition of most of the ballpark. With help, Lana was able to honor his last wish to scatter his ashes in Memorial Stadium. The ceremony was held May 24. The Babe Ruth Museum supplied the home plate used in the penultimate game at the defunct stadium and located it in the precise spot where it had been used. Curt told Eisenberg in 1986, "I am a damn ballplayer, and I will go to my grave that way." He did.

Sources

Brief conversations with the subject, 1968-1971.
Newspaper and magazine clippings with no source documentation.

Books:
Donald Honig, American League Rookies of the Year, (New York, NY: Bantam, 1989), p. 40.
Jim Bouton, Ball Four, (New York, NY: World Publishing, 1970)
Roger Angell, The Summer Game, (New York, NY: Viking Penguin, 1972), p. 95.

Magazines:
David Martindale, Biography, October 1998 p. 24-25.
Doug Brown, "The Man With the Cadillac Trot," Sport, June 1966, p. 42-43.
"The Year of the Rookie," Time, June 4, 1965, p. 68.
Time, July 22, 1966, p. 48.

Newspapers:
"Blefary Dies," USA Today Baseball Weekly, January 31, 2001, p. 14.
Associated Press, January 29, 2001.
Associated Press, November 22, 1965.
Barbara Barker, "Comeback Year," Bergen Record, February 12, 1995.
Bergen Record, various issues.
Doug Brown, "Blefary Has Curt Reply: 'I'm No Peck's Bad Boy,'" The Sporting News, December 21, 1968, p. 34.
Jennifer Frey, "I've walked in their shoes," New York Times, February 26,1995.
Jim Ogle, "Trade Winds Puff Out Yank Muscle," The Sporting News, December 20, 1969, p. 31.
John Drebinger, "DiMaggio Has Wonderful Time Teaching of N.Y. Rookie Camp," New York Times, March 22, 1963.
John Eisenberg, "Building a Life After Baseball," Baltimore Sun, September 1986 (specific date unknown).
John Wiebusch, "Angels Talk Deals, Seek Curt Blefary," The Sporting News, December 7, 1968, p. 36.
John Wiebusch, "Angels Whiff On Allen Deal, Try Callison," The Sporting News, December 21, 1968, p. 45.
John Wilson, "Astros Proud of Off-Season Overhaul Job," The Sporting News, December 21, 1968, p. 35.
John Wilson, "Clank, Cuckoo; By Either Name Blefary Can Hit," The Sporting News, January 4, 1969, p. 44.
John Wilson, "Hat's Figures Offset Blefary's Blast," The Sporting News, April 4, 1970, p. 8.
John Wilson, "Trades Add New Zing to Astro Attack," The Sporting News, February 15, 1969, p. 39.
New York Times, March 21, 1968.
Richard Goldstein, "Curt Blefary, 57, Outfielder and A.L. Rookie of the Year," New York Times, January 30, 2001.
Russell Schneider, "Indians Stalk New Prey- Phil Slugger Richie Allen," The Sporting News, October 26, 1968, p. 25.
Russell Schneider, "Tribe's Bid For Sock Runs Into Roadblock," The Sporting News, December 21, 1968, p. 28-29.
Sports Illustrated, July 11, 1966.
Sports Illustrated, June 13, 1968.

Web sites:
astrosdaily.com
baseball-almanac.com
baseballguru.com
BaseballLibrary.com
Baseball-Reference.com
Biography.com
hickoksports.com
Historicbaseball.com
Retrosheet.org

Individual Memberships start at just $45/year

Become A Member Today

When you join SABR you are making a statement of support for baseball history. You are joining a worldwide community of people who love to read about, talk about and write about baseball.