Vida Blue / Red / Yellow / Purple

Vida Blue
Blue with the Athletics
Pitcher
Born: (1949-07-28)July 28, 1949
Mansfield, Louisiana, U.S.
Died: May 6, 2023(2023-05-06) (aged 73)
Tracy, California, U.S.
Batted: Switch
Threw: Left
MLB debut
July 20, 1969, for the Oakland Athletics
Last MLB appearance
October 2, 1986, for the San Francisco Giants
MLB statistics
Win–loss record209–161
Earned run average3.27
Strikeouts2,175
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Vida Rochelle Blue Jr. (/vdɑː/;[1] July 28, 1949 – May 6, 2023) was an American professional baseball player.[2] He was a left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball from 1969 to 1986, most notably as an integral member of the Oakland Athletics dynasty that won three consecutive World Series championships from 1972 to 1974.[2] He won the American League (AL) Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player Award in 1971.[3]

A six-time All-Star, Blue was the first of only five pitchers in major league history to start the All-Star Game for both the American League (1971) and the National League (1978); Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Roy Halladay, and Max Scherzer are the others. During his 17-year career, he pitched for the Oakland Athletics (1969–1977), San Francisco Giants (1978–1981; 1985–86), and Kansas City Royals (1982–83).[2]

Early life

Vida Blue was born and raised in Mansfield in DeSoto Parish, Louisiana. He was the oldest of six children born to Vida Blue, Sr, a laborer in a Mansfield iron foundry and his wife Sallie.[1][4]

Blue attended DeSoto High School in Mansfield. He pitched for the baseball team and quarterbacked the football team. In his senior year of football, he threw for 3,400 yards and completed 35 touchdown passes while rushing for 1,600 yards. In his senior year of baseball, Blue threw a no-hitter with 21 strikeouts in just seven innings pitched.[5]

Baseball career

Blue was a power pitcher who worked fast and attacked the strike zone. He threw an occasional curveball to keep hitters off balance and an above average change-up, but his signature pitch was a fastball which he threw consistently at 94 miles per hour (151 km/h),[6] but could reach 100 miles per hour (160 km/h).[7] In The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, all-time hits leader Pete Rose stated that Blue "threw as hard as anyone" he ever faced,[8] and baseball historian Bill James cited Blue as the hardest-throwing lefty, and the second-hardest thrower of his era, behind only Nolan Ryan.[9]

Oakland Athletics (1969–1977)

1970 Oakland Athletics jersey

The then-Kansas City Athletics selected Blue in the second round of the 1967 MLB draft.[10][11] Though he was recruited to play college football for the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University, and the University of Houston, Blue chose to sign with the Athletics for $12,500 per year to help support his family after his father's death.[10]

Blue began the 1969 season with the Birmingham A's, but was promoted to make his major league debut on July 20.[10] In 1970, after spending the season in the minor leagues with the Midwest League single A Burlington Bees and the Iowa Oaks of the American Association, Blue was called up in September, making two starts. On September 11, he shut out the Kansas City Royals 3–0, giving up only one hit, to Pat Kelly in the eighth inning. Ten days later, Blue no-hit the defending and eventual repeat American League West champion Minnesota Twins, 6–0, at Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum, the lone baserunner coming on Harmon Killebrew's fourth-inning walk.[12] He was the fourth-youngest pitcher to throw a no-hitter.[13]

Blue had a 24–8 record in 1971, an AL leading 1.82 ERA and eight shutouts, and struck out 301 batters, winning both the Cy Young Award and American League Most Valuable Player Award.[14][15][16][17] He also led the American League in complete games (24), shutouts (8), and earned run average (1.82).[18] That season, the Athletics won the American League West title for the franchise's first postseason berth since the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1931 World Series. He got off to a terrific start, going 10–1 when he linked up with Boston's Sonny Siebert, who was 8–0, in a dramatic May matchup in Boston. The game was won by Siebert and the Red Sox 4–3, and remains what is considered one of the most dramatic games in Fenway Park history.[19] He was the youngest American League player to win the MVP Award in the 20th century.[20] He was the starting pitcher for the American League in the 1971 All-Star Game. In 1971 he became the only player ever to be a starting pitcher in the league opener (against the Washington Senators), the All-Star Game, and the playoff opener (against the Baltimore Orioles) in the same season. In 1971, Blue was on the covers of Sports Illustrated and Time magazine.[21][22] In 1972, his success in baseball led Blue to a small role in the film Black Gunn, starring Jim Brown.[23]

After Blue's breakthrough season in 1971, he and Athletics owner Charlie Finley clashed over his salary. Blue, who had earned $14,000 in 1971, sought a $92,500 salary. He held out, missing much of the year, before Blue and Finley settled at $63,000.[13] Blue ended up with a 6–10 record in spite of a 2.80 ERA in 1972. He did not make the Athletics' post-season starting rotation, instead pitching mainly in relief. Against the Cincinnati Reds in the 1972 World Series he made four appearances, including a save in Game 1, a blown save in Game 4, and a loss in a spot-start in Game 6.[24]

Blue pitches for the Oakland A's in 1973

Blue went 20–9 in 1973, 17–15 in 1974, and 22–11 in 1975, as an integral member of the Athletics' five straight American League Western Division pennants from 1971 to 1975, and three consecutive World Championships in 1972, 1973, and 1974. Perhaps his finest postseason performances were four innings of shutout relief work against the Detroit Tigers to save Game 5 of the 1972 American League Championship Series and a complete-game 1–0 shutout against the Orioles in Game 3 of the 1974 ALCS.[25] On September 28, 1975, Blue, Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad, and Rollie Fingers combined to no-hit the California Angels 5–0.[26][27]

After an 18–13 season with a 2.35 ERA in 1976, Blue told reporters, "I hope the next breath Charlie Finley takes is his last. I hope he falls flat on his face and dies of polio."[28] In June 1976, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn vetoed an attempt by Finley to sell Blue's contract to the New York Yankees, and did the same thing on January 30, 1978 to a trade announced by the Reds at the Winter Meetings on December 9, 1977, that would've had Blue sent to Cincinnati for Dave Revering and $1.75 million.[29][30] In both instances, Kuhn said the trades would be bad for baseball because they would benefit already powerful teams without making them give up any significant talent in return. At the end of the 1976 season, nearly the entire A's roster of star players from Oakland's championship teams left with baseball's new free agency, or were traded off by Finley, leaving Blue, who was still under contract with Oakland, to mentor a new team of primarily rookies and other young players. Alvin Dark, who managed Blue in 1974 and 1975, was surprised that Blue had remained with the team, writing that he "must have gotten the contract concessions he wanted."[31] In the 1977 season, Blue went 14–19 with a 3.83 ERA and leading the AL both in hits and earned runs surrendered.[32]

San Francisco Giants (1978–1981)

In March 1978, the Athletics traded Blue to the San Francisco Giants for Gary Thomasson, Gary Alexander, Dave Heaverlo, John Henry Johnson, Phil Huffman, Alan Wirth, and $300,000.[33] Mario Guerrero was sent to the Athletics as a player to be named later to complete the transaction.[34]

In 1978, Blue went 18–10 with a 2.79 ERA as he led the Giants to 89 wins and a third-place finish in the National League West Division, which was won by the Los Angeles Dodgers.[35] He started for the National League in the 1978 All-Star Game. He won the Sporting News National League Pitcher of the Year.[10]

Blue went 14–14 with a career worst 5.01 ERA as a full-time starter in 1979,[36] 14–10 with a 2.97 ERA in 1980,[37] and 8–6 with a 2.45 ERA in 1981, a strike-interrupted season.[38]

Kansas City Royals (1982–1983)

The Giants traded Blue to the Kansas City Royals for Atlee Hammaker, Craig Chamberlain, Renie Martin, and Brad Wellman on March 30, 1982.[39] He went 13–12 with a 3.78 ERA in 31 starts in 31 appearances.[40] In 1983, Blue went 0–5 with a 6.01 ERA in 19 appearances, 13 of them starts.[41] Blue was released mid-season, on August 6, 1983.[42]

After the 1983 season, Blue and former teammates Willie Wilson, Jerry Martin, and Willie Aikens pleaded guilty to attempting to purchase cocaine. He was sentenced to three months in prison[43] and was suspended for the 1984 season.[13][44]

San Francisco Giants (1985–1986)

In April 1985, Blue returned as a free agent to the San Francisco Giants on a one-year deal. He went 8–8 with a 4.47 ERA in 33 appearances, 20 of them starts, the rest in middle-inning and mop-up relief.[45]

In 1985, Blue testified in the Pittsburgh drug trials.

Blue re-signed on another one-year deal in 1986, finishing his career going 10–10 with a 3.27 ERA in 28 appearances, all starts, at the age of 36.[46] On April 20, he won his 200th career MLB game.[47] Blue signed with the Oakland Athletics for the 1987 season, but announced his retirement in February 1987.[48]

Post-pitching career

After baseball, Blue was a baseball analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, the TV home of the San Francisco Giants.[49]

Blue's troubles with substance abuse continued to haunt him after his playing career, as he faced multiple DUI charges in 2005. He acknowledged that the trials may have influenced him being left off the Hall of Fame ballot after one year, stating, "I had some issues in my life that might have had a tendency to sway voting. There are some guys in the Hall of Fame who don't have halos."[50][51]

Charity work

In 1971, Blue accompanied Bob Hope on his USO Christmas tour of Vietnam and other military installations. Blue remained active, working for numerous charitable causes including Safeway All Stars Challenge Sports,[52] automobile donations,[53] celebrity golf tournaments,[54] and charities for children.[55]

Blue was also active promoting baseball in Costa Rica.[56]

Personal life and death

In September 1989, Blue married Peggy Shannon on the pitcher's mound at Candlestick Park. His best man was former teammate Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda escorted Shannon to the mound.[57]

They had twin girls and divorced in 1996. He also had a son Derrick[58] and two other daughters.[59]

After retiring from baseball, Blue resided in California's Twain Harte area in the Sierra Nevada foothills for many years, before moving to Tracy, California by 2007.[60]

Blue died in a hospital in the East Bay on May 6, 2023, at the age of 73.[49] According to Athletics' team officials, Blue died as a result of medical complications stemming from cancer.[61]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Green, Alex (May 8, 2023). "Vida Blue, 73, Who Became Hottest Player in Baseball as a Rookie With the A's". The New York Times. p. B7. Retrieved May 8, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c "Vida Blue". Baseball Reference. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  3. ^ "1971 Awards Voting". Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  4. ^ Hanigan, Thomas (May 7, 2023). "Vida Blue, flamethrowing ace of A's dynasty, dies at 73". MLB.com. Retrieved May 8, 2023.
  5. ^ Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball's Super Showman, p.84, G. Michael Green and Roger D. Launius. Walker Publishing Company, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8027-1745-0
  6. ^ "A Bolt of Blue Lightning". TIME Magazine. August 23, 1971. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved August 11, 2008.
  7. ^ "Cy Young winner Blue was Bay Area workhorse". MLB.com. February 24, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  8. ^ The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, 2004, ISBN 0-7432-6158-5.
  9. ^ Bill James (June 15, 2004). "The Mighty Fastball". espn.com. Retrieved August 11, 2008.
  10. ^ a b c d Puerzer, Rich. "Vida Blue". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved May 7, 2023.
  11. ^ "Cy Young winner Blue was Bay Area workhorse". MLB.com.
  12. ^ "September 21, 1970: A's rookie Vida Blue no-hits Twins, drinks their champagne – Society for American Baseball Research".
  13. ^ a b c "Vida Blue, cocaine and a Hall of Fame career lost to baseball's drug scandal". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 7, 2023.
  14. ^ "MLB Most Valuable Player MVP Awards & Cy Young Awards Winners". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  15. ^ 1971 Most Valuable Player award voting results, Baseball-reference.com
  16. ^ "1971 Awards Voting". Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  17. ^ "MLB News, Scores, Videos, Standings and Schedule | Sporting News". Sportingnews.com. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  18. ^ A Review of the Events of 1971, The 1972 World Book Year Book, p.246, Joseph P. Spohn
  19. ^ "May 28, 1971: Sonny Siebert outduels Vida Blue – Society for American Baseball Research".
  20. ^ Great Baseball Feats, Facts and Figures, 2008 Edition, p. 152, David Nemec and Scott Flatow, a Signet Book, Penguin Group, New York, ISBN 978-0-451-22363-0.
  21. ^ Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball's Super Showman, p.148, G. Michael Green and Roger D. Launius. Walker Publishing Company, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8027-1745-0
  22. ^ "TIME Magazine Cover: Vida Blue – Aug. 23, 1971". TIME.com.
  23. ^ "Pop culture and the pastime: Black Gunn and Vida Blue". November 30, 2012.
  24. ^ "1972 World Series – Oakland Athletics over Cincinnati Reds (4–3)". Baseball-Reference.com.
  25. ^ "1974 ALCS – Oakland Athletics over Baltimore Orioles (3–1)". Baseball-Reference.com.
  26. ^ "4 A's Pitchers Combine for No‐Hitter – The New York Times". The New York Times. September 29, 1975. Retrieved May 7, 2023.
  27. ^ "September 28, 1975: Oakland A's use four pitchers to no-hit Angels on final day of season – Society for American Baseball Research".
  28. ^ Iber, Jorge (2016). Mike Torrez: A Baseball Biography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-7864-9632-7.
  29. ^ Durso, Joseph. "Yanks Sign Eastwick to 5‐Year Pact," The New York Times, Saturday, December 10, 1977. Retrieved October 22, 2020
  30. ^ Scannell, Nancy. "A's Deal Of Blue Canceled By Kuhn," The Washington Post, Tuesday, January 31, 1978. Retrieved October 22, 2020
  31. ^ Dark, Alvin; Underwood, John (1980). When in Doubt, Fire the Manager: My Life and Times in Baseball. New York: E. P. Dutton. p. 222. ISBN 0-525-23264-8.
  32. ^ "1977 Oakland Athletics Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com.
  33. ^ "Seven Players Traded to A's," United Press International (UPI), Thursday, March 16, 1978. Retrieved October 22, 2020
  34. ^ Bud Geracie (February 15, 2020). "History of trades between the A's and Giants is short — and sad (for one team) – Paradise Post". Paradisepost.com. Retrieved May 7, 2023.
  35. ^ "1978 San Francisco Giants Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com.
  36. ^ "1979 San Francisco Giants Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com.
  37. ^ "1980 San Francisco Giants Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com.
  38. ^ "1981 San Francisco Giants Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com.
  39. ^ Gary Peterson (March 30, 2020). "Giants trade Vida Blue to Royals one week before opening day". Mercurynews.com. Retrieved May 7, 2023.
  40. ^ "1982 Kansas City Royals Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com.
  41. ^ "1983 Kansas City Royals Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com.
  42. ^ "The Kansas City Royals Friday gave up on former... – UPI Archives". UPI.
  43. ^ UPI (January 2, 1984). "Blue Is Starting His Prison Term – The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2023.
  44. ^ Rogers, Thomas (July 27, 1984). "Blue Suspended For The Year – The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2023.
  45. ^ "1985 San Francisco Giants Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com.
  46. ^ "1986 San Francisco Giants Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com.
  47. ^ "Vida Blue refused to stop dreaming about his 200th... – UPI Archives". UPI.
  48. ^ "Veteran left-hander Vida Blue, who signed a contract with... – UPI Archives". UPI.
  49. ^ a b "Blue, former MVP, 3-time WS champ, dies at 73". ESPN.com. May 7, 2023.
  50. ^ Murphy, Dave (May 17, 2005). "The San Francisco Chronicle".
  51. ^ Killion, Ann (September 6, 2021). "Add these three words to one of MLB's greatest names: Vida Blue, Hall of Famer". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  52. ^ [1] [dead link]
  53. ^ "4 donate car charity". Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
  54. ^ "If It Matters To You, It Matters To Us". Athlebrities.com. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  55. ^ "Golf Tournament A Hole In One: $50,000 Expected for Variety Kids" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 3, 2016. Retrieved November 7, 2009.
  56. ^ "Vida Blue Pitches Favorite Pastime". Ticotimes.net. August 8, 2008.
  57. ^ "Ex-Major-Leaguer Vida Blue Weds On Giants Stadium Pitcher's Mound". Apnews.com. September 25, 1989. Retrieved May 7, 2023.
  58. ^ "A TOUGH PITCH / Friends, relatives say it's time for Vida Blue to get it together". July 5, 2005.
  59. ^ "Vida Blue, 1971 MVP and 3-time World Series champ, dies at 73 - UPI.com". UPI.
  60. ^ Hansen, B.J. (May 8, 2023). "Former Tuolumne County Resident Vida Blue Passes Away". myMotherLode.com. Retrieved May 8, 2023.
  61. ^ "Vida Blue, who led Oakland to 3 World Series titles, dies at 73". KKTV. May 8, 2023. Retrieved May 8, 2023.

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by No-hitter pitcher
September 21, 1970
Succeeded by
Preceded by No-hit game
September 28, 1975
(with Abbott, Lindblad & Fingers)
Succeeded by