Vida Blue Won World Series 3 Straight Years

Hard-throwing pitcher was a leader of the '70s Oakland A's
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 7, 2023 4:55 PM CDT
Vida Blue Won World Series 3 Straight Years
Vida Blue pitches in 1971.   (AP Photo)

Vida Blue, a hard-throwing left-hander who became one of baseball's biggest draws in the early 1970s and helped lead the brash Oakland Athletics to three straight World Series titles before his career was derailed by drug problems, has died. He was 73. The A's said Blue died Saturday, the AP reports, but didn't give a cause of death. "There are few players with a more decorated career than Vida Blue," the team said in a statement Sunday. "Vida will always be a franchise legend and a friend." After breaking in as a teenager two years before, Blue was voted the 1971 American League Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player. He'd gone 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA, 301 strikeouts, and 24 complete games, eight of them shutouts. Blue remains among just 11 pitchers to win both honors in the same year.

He finished 209-161 with a 3.27 ERA, 2,175 strikeouts, 143 complete games, and 37 shutouts over 17 seasons with Oakland, San Francisco, and Kansas City. A six-time All-Star, Blue helped pitch the A's—where his teammates included Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and Sal Bando, per USA Today—to consecutive World Series titles from 1972-74. Since then, only the 1998-2000 New York Yankees have accomplished the feat. After Blue clashed publicly with Charley Finley, the A's owner traded Blue twice only to be blocked by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, first in June 1976 to the New York Yankees and then in December 1977 to the Cincinnati Reds. Kuhn vetoed the deals under the commissioner's authority to act in the "best interests of baseball."

Blue was ordered in 1983 to serve three months in federal prison and fined $5,000 for misdemeanor possession of approximately a tenth of an ounce of cocaine. He was sentenced to one year in prison, but the majority of the term was suspended. Blue was among the players ordered by Commissioner Peter Ueberroth in 1985 to be subject to random drug testing for the rest of their careers. After sitting out 1983 and 1984, Blue returned to play with the Giants for two seasons. Following his playing career Blue settled in San Francisco and worked with several charitable organizations, promoting baseball in inner cities. He also did broadcasting work.

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Blue became the first pitcher ever to start the All-Star Game for both leagues. He was the last switch-hitter to win the MVP award in the American League. Pete Rose said he threw as hard as any pitcher he faced. But Blue never came close to being elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, and he said he believed his drug problems were part of the reason, per CBS Sports. "I had some issues in my life that might have had a tendency to sway voting," Blue said after falling off the ballot in 1995. "There are some guys in the Hall of Fame who don't have halos." (More obituary stories.)

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