In a recent Twitter post, the Oakland A’s honored legend Vida Blue for Black History Month. Let’s take a look back at his career, and how Blue’s pitching dominance took over America’s pastime.
Blue still holds the Oakland record for most games started – at 262. But this is simply the tip of the iceberg for the lefty’s 17-year career, playing half of that time with the A’s. To list a few more accolades: 6x All-Star, an important piece in three World Series championships, an AL Cy Young and MVP (in the same year!).
Blue’s Early Years
Born in Mansfield, Louisiana, a segregated town at the time, Blue played baseball and was the quarterback of his high school’s football team. Despite the big-time college football recruiters coming to see him, he eventually signed with the A’s at the age of 19.
In his first major league game in 1970, Blue pitched a shut out into the 8th and gave up only one hit. In the following weeks, he no-hit the Twins who, at the time, were the defending AL West champions.
AL Cy Young and MVP in the One Year
This dominance continued the following year, when he won the Cy Young and MVP. He went 24-8 with an ERA of 1.82 and 301 strikeouts. Blue helped lead the team to its first postseason appearance since 1931 and to the AL West title.
The A’s went on to win three World Series from ’72-’74. Over that period, his average W-L% was over .500, notably going 12-1 in the ’74 season.
He remained with the team, even following a fire sale and exodus of many A’s free agents after the 1976 season. Blue is often remembered during this period as a leader to a new and young team, many of whom were rookies. He was eventually traded to the Giants in 1978 and finished his career with the Royals.
Life Outside of Baseball
Blue has been open at his struggles with drug abuse during his career, which some believe impacted his chances of garnering enough HOF votes. In a 2021 Washington Post article about his career and addiction, he was quoted saying,
“It’s not embarrassing, but it tarnished my image…I had a reputation of being a respectable, reputable person. I worked my tail off to polish that image back up and renew the name Vida Blue Jr. But it’s a constant battle to do that every day.”
Today, he works as an analyst and dedicates much of his time to charity work.
Looking at Blue’s playing career, he is, plain a simple, a key piece of Oakland’s history and the game of baseball as a whole.