Vida Blue, who led Oakland to 3 World Series titles, dies at 73

Vida Blue, a hard-throwing southpaw who became one of baseball’s biggest draws in the early 1970s and helped lead the brash A’s to three consecutive World Series titles before his career was derailed by drug issues, died Saturday, according to the team. He was 73 years old.

Oakland has not announced the cause of death. Blue had used a cane to aid his movement during the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Oakland Athletics championship team on April 16.

β€œHe was engaging. He was kind. He was caring,” ex-teammate Reggie Jackson said in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday. “He was uncomfortable with the crowd.”

Blue was voted the 1971 American League Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player after going 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts in 24 complete games, including eight shutouts. He was 22 when he won MVP, the youngest to win the award. He remains among only 11 pitchers to win 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 (1982-83). He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot four times, receiving his highest support at 8.7% in 1993, well below the required 75%.

“This Hall of Fame thing, it’s something that I can honestly, openly say I would love to be a Hall of Famer,” Blue told The Washington Post in 2021. drugs hampered my path to the Hall of Fame – until now.

A six-time All-Star and three-time 20-game winner, Blue helped launch the Swingin’ A’s, as Charley Finley’s colorful, mustachioed team was known, to back-to-back World Series titles from 1972-74. , only the 1998-2000 New York Yankees have achieved the feat.

“I remember watching a 19-year-old phenom dominate baseball, and at the same time change my life,” wrote Dave Stewart, a four-time 20-game winner for the A’s a generation later, on Twitter. “There are no words for what you have meant to me and so many others.”

Jackson was shocked at how much weight Blue had lost when he saw him at the 50th reunion.

“I didn’t recognize him,” Jackson said. β€œI was upset. I was shaken. It will stay with me the rest of my life.

Selected by the then Kansas City Athletics in the second round of the 1967 entry draft, Blue made his big league debut with Oakland on July 20, 1969, about a week before his 20th birthday. He made four starts and 12 relief appearances, then spent most of 1970 at Triple-A Iowa.

Called up when the rosters expanded, he threw a one-hitter shutout at Kansas City in his second start. In his fourth start, Blue pitched a no-hitter against Minnesota on Sept. 21, at age 21 and 55 days, making him the youngest pitcher to throw a no-hitter since the start of the NHL era. balloon live in 1920.

“There are few players with a more decorated career than Vida Blue,” the A’s said in a statement. “Vida will always be a franchise legend and friend.”

He held on after his MVP season and signed a one-year, $50,000 contract. Blue didn’t make his first start in 1972 until May 24 and went 6-10, mostly out of the bullpen. From 1973 to 1976, he went 77-48 but his World Series career record was 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 Dark to rest him for the playoffs in a game ended by Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie fingers.

Blue was among the players who took on leadership roles on the A’s and clashed with Finley.

Finley attempted in June 1976 to trade Blue to the New York Yankees for $1.5 million and Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to the Boston Red Sox for $1 million each. Kuhn vetoed agreements under the commissioner’s authority to act in the “best interests of baseball”. In December 1977, Kuhn stopped Finley from trading Blue to Cincinnati for $1.75 million and minor league first baseman Dave Revering.

Blue was traded to the Giants the following March in a deal that brought seven players to Oakland, including outfielder Gary Thomasson and receiver Gary Alexander.

Blue was handed over to the Royals in March 1982 and released in August 1983. In December, he was sentenced to three months in federal prison and fined $5,000 for misdemeanor possession of approximately one tenth of an ounce of cocaine . Blue was sentenced to a year in prison but U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Milton Sullivant suspended the majority of the sentence.

After sitting out in 1983 and 1984, Blue returned to baseball with the Giants for two seasons. Blue was among players ordered by Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth in 1985 to be subject to random drug testing for the rest of their careers.

After his 2005 arrest in Arizona on suspicion of impaired driving 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 incarceration by spending time in a residential alcohol treatment program.


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