Don Lee Blasingame (March 16, 1932 – April 13, 2005) was a second baseman in Major League Baseball who played with the St. Louis Cardinals (1955–1959), San Francisco Giants (1960–1961), Cincinnati Reds (1961–1963), Washington Senators (1963–1966) and Kansas City Athletics (1966). Blasingame batted left-handed and threw right-handed.
He grew up in Corinth, Mississippi and attended Corinth High School. He served in the U.S. military in 1951 and 1952 and signed with the Cardinals in 1953.
Nicknamed “Blazer”, Blasingame was a second baseman with five MLB teams in 12 seasons, and later he was the third American (after Wally Yonamine and Joe Lutz) to manage in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball.
Blasingame was a .258 career hitter with 21 home runs and 308 RBI in 1444 games.
A classic line drive hitter, Blasingame was also a skilled bunter.In fact he reached 88.3% of the time with the bases empty, bunting for a hit. 2nd all time He was a fast and smart runner—he hit into fewer double plays (one in every 123 at-bats) than anyone in major league history except Don Buford.
He made his major league debut at age 23 on September 20, 1955 in a 2-0 Cardinals win over the Chicago Cubs. Starting at second base and batting leadoff, his first career at-bat resulted in his first hit, a single off Sam Jones, and he scored on a Solly Hemus home run.
In 1956, he started as a regular with the Cardinals, replacing Red Schoendienst.
Blasingame enjoyed his best season in 1957, when he hit .271 and posted career-highs in home runs (8), RBI (58), runs (101), hits (176) and stolen bases (21). In 1958, he followed with .274, 19 doubles, 10 triples and 20 steals, and also was named to the National League All-Star team. In 1959, Blasingame hit .289 with 26 doubles, both career highs.
In 1960, Blasingame married flight attendant Sara Cooper, a flight attendant who in 1957 was Miss Missouri and a finalist (top 10) in the Miss America Pageant. Blasingame's father-in-law, Walker Cooper, also was a major leaguer.
With the Reds, Blasingame appeared in the 1961 World Series, playing in three games with one hit in seven at-bats as the Reds fell in five games to the New York Yankees.
After 12 seasons with the Reds, Giants, Senators and Athletics, Blasingame finished his major league career at the end of the 1966 season.
Opting to continue his playing career in Japan, Blasingame joined the Nankai Hawks in 1967, playing second base for three years until 1969, and recorded a .274 average with 15 home runs and 86 RBI in 366 games. Blasingame was registered officially as his nickname, "Don Blazer." He then joined the team's coaching staff for the next eight seasons.
In 1978, Blasingame was moved to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp as the head coach of for one season. He then managed the Hanshin Tigers for one-and-a-half seasons before returning to the Nankai Hawks from 1981 to 1982. As manager for the two teams, he compiled a record of 180-208-28 (ties are played in Japanese baseball).
In 1980, he was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Blasingame died at age 73 on April 13, 2005 in Fountain Hills, Arizona.
By Dean Hanley
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