Vida Blue, a hard-throwing left-hander who became one of baseball’s biggest draws in the early 1970s and helped lead the brazen Oakland Athletics to three straight World Series titles, has died. He was 73.
The A’s said Blue died on Saturday but did not provide a cause of death.
“I remember watching a 19-year-old phenomenon dominate baseball and change my life at the same time,” wrote Dave Stewart, a generation later a four-time 20-game winner for the A’s, on Twitter. “There are no words for what you meant to me and so many others.”
Blue was voted the 1971 American League Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player after winning 24-8 with 24 full games, eight of which were shutouts, with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts. He was 22 when he won MVP, the youngest to win the award. He remains one of 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). ).
“Vida Blue has been a Bay Area baseball icon for over 50 years,” Giants President Larry Baer said in a statement.
A six-time All-Star and three-time 20-game winner, Blue helped the Swingin’ A’s, as Charley Finley’s motley, mustache team was known, to back-to-back World Series titles from 1972-74. Since then, only the 1998-2000 New York Yankees have accomplished this feat.
“There are few players with a more successful career than Vida Blue,” the A’s said in a statement. “Vida will always be a franchise legend and friend.”
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 before his 20th birthday. He made four starts and 12 backup appearances, and then spent most of 1970 at Triple-A Iowa.
He was called up as the rosters expanded and scored a one-hit shutout in his second start in Kansas City. In his fourth start, Blue threw a no-hitter against Minnesota on September 21 at 21 years and 55 days, making him the youngest pitcher to throw a no-hitter since the live ball era began in 1920.
He persevered after his MVP season and signed a one-year, $50,000 contract. Blue didn’t make his first start until May 24, going 6-10. From 1973-76 he went 77-48 and 0-3 in the World Series.
In 1975 he threw 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 finished by Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers
After Blue publicly clashed with Finley, the owner of the A Blue traded twice, only to be blocked each time by Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
Finley attempted 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 in June 1976. Kuhn vetoed deals under the commissioner’s authority to act in “baseball’s best interests.” In December 1977, Kuhn stopped Finley from trading Blue to Cincinnati and minor league first baseman Dave Revering for $1.75 million.
Blue was traded to the Giants the following March, giving Oakland seven players, including outfielder Gary Thomasson and catcher Gary Alexander.
Blue was handed over to the Royals in March 1982 and released in August 1983. In December of that year, he was given a three-month sentence in federal prison and a $5,000 fine for possession of about a tenth of an ounce of cocaine. Blue was sentenced to a year in prison, but US Judge J. Milton Sullivant stayed most of the sentence.
After sitting out 1983 and 1984, Blue returned to baseball for two seasons with the Giants. Blue was among the players ordered by Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth in 1985 to undergo random drug testing for the remainder of their careers.
AP MLB: and