Vida Blue, Pitching Sensation for Champion A’s Teams, Dies at 73

Vida Blue, who as a rookie with the Oakland Athletics in 1971 threw an unhittable fastball and have become baseball’s hottest participant, died on Saturday. He was 73.(*73*)

The Athletics introduced his dying however didn’t say the place Blue died or present the trigger.(*73*)

Vida (pronounced VYE-da) Blue was one of many stars of an Athletics workforce that gained the World Series three straight years, from 1972 to 1974. But his efficiency in these years by no means reproduced the adulation and hoopla of his first full season.(*73*)

After dropping on opening day to the Washington Senators in 1971, Blue, a lefty, reeled off eight wins in a row. In his first dozen video games, he threw 5 complete-game shutouts. By the summer season, he was main baseball in not simply shutouts but in addition wins, strikeouts, full video games and earned-run common.(*73*)

Sports Illustrated and Time journal put him on their covers. He turned 22 that July.(*73*)

On the sphere, he was a person in a rush. Unlike virtually all different pitchers in baseball historical past, he ran to and from the mound. His supply concluded with what author Roger Angell of The New Yorker described as a “leap.”(*73*)

Opposing hitters spoke mystically of how Blue’s fastballs would disappear or bounce over their bats. Reporters speculated about why he carried two dimes in his pocket when he pitched, with some suggesting it was a allure to assist him win 20 video games. Across the nation, attendance at his outings swelled to ranges that stadiums had not seen in years. Fans of an opposing workforce, the Detroit Tigers, chanted exterior the clubhouse, “We need Vida!”(*73*)

The A’s appeared within the playoffs for the primary time since 1931, finally dropping to the Baltimore Orioles within the American League Championship. Blue pulled off the feat of successful, in his first full season, each the Cy Young and the Most Valuable Player Awards (beating out his teammate Sal Bando to develop into the MVP).(*73*)

Blue earned the paltry sum of about $15,000 as wage, and he ready for a serious payday. President Richard Nixon referred to as him “essentially the most underpaid participant in baseball.”(*73*)

Yet he had already fought with the colourful, obstreperous proprietor of the A’s, Charles O. Finley, who supplied Blue $2,000 to legally change his identify to Vida True Blue, hoping to make use of the moniker for promoting.(*73*)

Blue was named after his father, who died in Blue’s boyhood. “I honor him each time the identify Vida Blue seems within the headlines,” Blue informed Time. “If Mr. Finley thinks it is such an awesome identify, why would not he name himself True O. Finley?”(*73*)

After the ’71 season, Blue mentioned he ought to make $115,000. Finley countered with $50,000 and made the dispute public. Blue held a information convention and declared that he would retire from sports activities to develop into a vice chairman for public relations at a metal firm.(*73*)

Ultimately, Blue and Finley settled on $63,150.(*73*)

After Blue’s run of wins in ’71 — it appeared potential at one level that he would attain the belief-defying milestone of 30 — he began the ’72 season late and went a pedestrian 6-10. He pitched nicely however not spectacularly as a reliever within the postseason, which concluded with the A’s successful the World Series.(*73*)

“That man has soured me on baseball,” Blue informed The New York Times about Finley in 1973. “No matter what he does for me sooner or later, I’ll always remember that he handled me like a rattling coloured boy.”(*73*)

Blue went on to cement a status as a standout common season pitcher, recording 20 or extra wins in three of his first 5 seasons. He was a contributor to the A’s subsequent success within the playoffs.(*73*)

And even with out altering his identify, Blue was one in every of a number of memorably named Athletics. Among them had been Blue Moon Odom, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Mudcat Grant and Rick Monday.(*73*)

Blue was traded to the San Francisco Giants in 1978 and recorded one other sturdy 12 months, going 18-10 with a 2.79 earned-run common. But he would quickly be higher identified for his life off the sphere.(*73*)

In 1983, as a pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, Blue and a number of other of his teammates had been questioned as a part of a federal cocaine investigation. He pleaded responsible to possession of the drug, resulting in 81 days in jail and a yearlong suspension from baseball.(*73*)

It was a stunning flip of occasions for a person whose maturity and poise had been praised when he was a 22-year-old celebrity.(*73*)

In his 2011 autobiography, “Vida Blue: A Life,” Blue advised that he had struggled with substance abuse for a few years. “Along with all of the glory that I’d achieved, there was a rising darkness reaching for me,” he wrote. “And the sunshine started to dim as early as 1972” — the 12 months of his combat with Finley.(*73*)

Vida Rochelle Blue Jr. was born on July 28, 1949, in Mansfield, a small city in northern Louisiana. His household lived on an unpaved road, and his father labored at a metal mill. Vida’s status as an athletic prodigy prompted his highschool to type a baseball workforce. His overpowering pace on the mound brought about outfielders to zone out, realizing no person might hit him, and the hand of his catcher to harm for days after video games.(*73*)

He was additionally a celebrated quarterback, however his plans to play school soccer modified when his father died at the age of 45. Vida’s mom, Sallie Blue, informed him that now he was the person of the household.(*73*)

When he was round 18 years outdated, he received a suggestion from the Athletics with a $35,000 signing bonus, in keeping with Time. He gave a lot of it to his household.(*73*)

Blue retired earlier than the 1987 season. After his profession as a ballplayer, he labored as a tv analyst for the Giants. He was denied a spot within the Hall of Fame, and he spoke to journalists periodically about his notion that his drug use was guilty.(*73*)

Information about Blue’s survivors was not instantly obtainable.(*73*)

As an outdated man, Blue spoke to a bunch of highschool college students at the prompting of a good friend, The Washington Post reported in 2021. One boy was going via a darkish interval at dwelling. Blue took him apart and mentioned his personal struggles in his youth. Both of them wound up crying.(*73*)

“I labored my tail off to shine that picture again up and renew the identify Vida Blue Jr.,” he informed The Post. “It’s a relentless battle to try this day by day.”(*73*)

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