Vida Blue, a hard-throwing left-hander who became one of baseball’s biggest draws in the early 1970s and helped the Brush A’s to three World Series titles before drug problems derailed his career, died Saturday, according to the team. . He was 73 years old.
“There are few players with a more decorated career than Vida Blue,” the A’s said in a statement. “He was a three-time champion, an MVP, a six-time All-Star, a Cy Young Award winner and an Oakland A’s Hall of Famer. Vida will always be a franchise legend and a friend. We offer our deepest condolences. His passing during this difficult time. to family and friends.”
Rest in peace, Vida 💚💛 pic.twitter.com/MXHRuRFfjH
— Oakland A’s (@Athletics) May 7, 2023
Blue died of complications from cancer at a hospital in San Francisco’s East Bay area, the Oakland Athletics said. On April 16, 1973, on the 50th anniversary of the A’s championship team, Blue used a walking stick to aid his mobility.
“He was engaging. He was personable. He was caring,” former teammate Reggie Jackson said in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday. “He was uncomfortable with crowds.”
Blue was voted the 1971 American League Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player after going 24-8 with 24 complete games with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts, including eight shutouts. He was 22 when he won the MVP, the youngest ever to win the award. He is one of only 11 men to win the MVP and Cy Young in the same year.
Blue finished 209-161 with a 3.27 ERA, 2,175 strikeouts, 143 complete games and 37 shutouts in 17 seasons with Oakland (1969-77), San Francisco (1978-81, 85-86) and Kansas City (1982-86). . He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot four times, receiving his highest approval rating of 8.7% in 1993, well short of the 75% required.
Blue told The Washington Post in 2021, “That Hall of Fame thing, it’s something I can honestly, frankly say I wish I was a Hall of Famer.” Reputation – until now.”
A six-time All-Star and three-time 20-game winner, Blue helped pitch the Swingin’ A’s as Charlie Finley’s colorful, mustachioed team won consecutive World Series titles from 1972-74. Since then, only the 1998–2000 New York Yankees have accomplished the feat.
He became the first pitcher to start the All-Star Game for both leagues in 1971 and ’75 for the AL and for the NL in ’78.
“I remember watching a 19-year-old phenom dominate baseball, and change my life at the same time,” Dave Stewart, a four-time 20-game winner for the A’s a generation later, wrote on Twitter. “There are no words for what you mean to me and so many others.”
Rest in peace Vida Blue, my mentor, hero and friend. I remember watching a 19-year-old phenom dominate baseball, and change my life at the same time. There are no words for what you mean to me and so many others. My heart goes out to the Neel family🙏🏿🙏🏿
— Dave “Smoke” Stewart (@Dsmoke34) May 7, 2023
Jackson was shocked to see how much weight Blue had lost when he saw her at the 50th reunion.
“I didn’t recognize him,” Jackson said. “I was shattered. I was shaken. It will stick with me for the rest of my life.”
Selected by the then-Kansas City Athletics in the second round of the 1967 amateur draft, Blue made his major league debut with Oakland on July 20, 1969, about a week shy of his 20th birthday. He made four starts and 12 relief appearances, then spent most of 1970 at Triple-A Iowa.
Called up when rosters expanded, he pitched a one-hit shutout at Kansas City in his second start. In his fourth start, Blue pitched a no-hitter against Minnesota on September 21, at 21 years, 55 days, becoming the youngest pitcher to throw a no-hitter since the live ball era began in 1920.
He held on after his MVP season and signed a $50,000 one-year contract. Blue didn’t make his first start until May 24, 1972 and went 6-10, mostly out of the bullpen. From 1973-76, he went 77-48 but had a career World Series record of 0-3.
In 1975, he pitched the first five innings of a no-hitter against the California Angels, but was pulled early by manager Alvin Dirk to rest him for the playoffs in a game finished by Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers.
Blue was among the players who assumed a leadership role in the A’s and clashed with Finley.
“We were very young kids,” Jackson said Sunday. “Vida came from Louisiana and black, and I was interested in being black, being black in a white league and a white world, how you conducted yourself, how you acted, because you were always colored first.”
Finley attempted to trade Blue to the New York Yankees for $1.5 million in June 1976 and Joe Rudy and Rollie Fingers to the Boston Red Sox for $1 million. Kuhn vetoed contracts under the commissioner’s authority to act in the “best interests of baseball.” In December 1977, Kuhn traded Finlay from the Blues to Cincinnati and minor league first baseman Dave Rivering for $1.75 million.
The following March the Blues were traded to the Giants in a deal that brought seven players to Oakland, including outfielder Gary Thomason and catcher Gary Alexander.
Blue was dealt to the Royals in March 1982 and released in August 1983. He was ordered in December to serve three months in federal prison and fined $5,000 for misdemeanor possession of about a tenth of an ounce of cocaine. Blue was sentenced to one year in prison but US Magistrate Judge J. Milton Sullivan suspended most of the term.
Blue did not play in 1984 and was suspended by Major League Baseball for the remainder of the season on July 26 for illegal drug use.
He returned to baseball with the Giants for two seasons beginning in 1985. In 1985, Blue was among the players baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth ordered to undergo random drug testing for the rest of their careers.
After being arrested in Arizona in 2005 on suspicion of DUI for the third time in less than six years, Blue was sentenced to six months in prison after failing to complete his probation. But he was told he could avoid prison by spending time in a residential alcohol treatment program.
After his playing career, Blue settled in San Francisco and worked with several charities to promote baseball in the inner cities, CBS Sports reported. He also did some television work.
Neel died a few days later A signed a binding contract to purchase land for a new retractable roof ballpark in Las Vegas after being unable to build a new venue in the Bay Area.