Vida Blue, one of MLB’s main attractions during the early 1970s, passed away on Saturday of medical complications from cancer at 73.
Blue was a hard-throwing left-handed starting pitcher with a distinct delivery. He helped lead the Oakland Athletics to three World Series championships before drug problems hampered his career.
Blue’s best season was in 1971 when he went 24-8 with a slim 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts in 312 innings. He led the league in shutouts with eight. His efforts earned him the AL Cy Young Award and MVP. Blue is among only 11 pitchers in MLB history to accomplish the feat in the same season.
He appeared in only 25 games the following season after a falling out with A’s owner Charlier Finley. The A’s still won the first of three straight World Series. Blue was a key part of the subsequent two title runs, combining 37-24 in 77 starts.
Blue was traded by Finley twice, to the Yankees in June 1976 and to the Reds a year and a half later. However, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn blocked the trades. Blue pitched for the A’s through the 1977 season, posting a 124-86 mark with 1315 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.95. He pitched for the Giants from 1978 through 1981 and 1985 through 1986, going 72-58 with a 3.52 ERA. Blue also made 50 appearances combined for the Kansas City Royals in 1982 and 1983, winning 13 and losing 17. He retired with a 209-161 record with 2175 strikeouts, an ERA of 3.27, 143 complete games, and 37 shutouts.
One of Blue’s 209 wins was a no-hitter tossed in 1970. He was also part of a combined no-hitter in 1975. Among Blue’s distinctions is being the first player to start the All-Star games for each league.
Blue had numerous legal issues following his release from the Royals in 1983. He was fined $5000 and ordered to serve to three months for possession of cocaine. He was sentenced to a year in prison, but most of his term was suspended. Upon returning to baseball in 1985, Blue was among several players subject to random drug testing.
Giants president Larry Baer said that Blue was a baseball icon in the bay for over half a century, with 17 as a player and years influencing the community.
Blue was arrested again two decades later in 2005 on suspicion of DUI; that was the third time in less than six months, leading to a six-month sentence of jail time. He was able to avoid that by spending time in an alcohol treatment program.
Formers A’s players, including Dave Stewart, paid tribute to Blue. Members of the Giants and Royals also sent their tributes on social media. The Royals went a step further, holding a moment of silence before their game against the A’s. The A’s were in Kansas City when Blue was drafted by the organization in 1967.
As we mourn the loss of three-time World Series champ Vida Blue, the basketball world is also facing changes, with the 76ers firing head coach Doc Rivers after a blowout loss to the Celtics.