Vida Blue, flamethrowing ace of A's dynasty, dies at 73

May 7th, 2023

, a flamethrowing left-hander who became the youngest MVP in AL/NL history in 1971 and helped the Athletics win three straight World Series championships from 1972-74, died on Saturday. He was 73.

"There are few players with a more decorated career than Vida Blue," the A's said in a statement. "He was a three-time champion, an MVP, a six-time All-Star, a Cy Young Award winner, and an Oakland A's Hall of Famer. Vida will always be a franchise legend and a friend. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends during this arduous time."

Selected by the Kansas City A’s in the second round of the 1967 MLB Draft out of De Soto High School in northwestern Louisiana, Blue made his debut at the age of 19 in 1969, the franchise’s second year after moving to Oakland.

While Blue only made 18 appearances (10 starts) for the A’s over his first two seasons, his dominance after being called up in September 1970 served as a preview of what was to come.

Two starts after throwing a one-hit shutout against the Royals in Kansas City, Blue took the mound at home against the Twins and tossed a no-hitter, striking out nine and allowing only one batter to reach base on a fourth-inning walk. At 21 years and 55 days old, Blue remains the youngest player since the start of the Live Ball Era in 1920 to throw a no-hitter.

Blue’s career took off in 1971, as he won the AL Cy Young and MVP Awards after going 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts over 312 innings. In doing so, he became the fifth player to win both awards in the same year. 

Blue went on to make six All-Star teams during a 17-year career that saw him spend time with the Giants and Royals in addition to the A’s.

Blue’s rapid ascent was especially remarkable considering he nearly chose to pursue another sport after high school.

Born Vida Rochelle Blue Jr. in Mansfield, La., on July 28, 1949, he was the eldest of six children born to Vida Blue Sr. and Sallie Blue.

A tremendous athlete, Blue played both baseball and football in high school, starring as a quarterback, and he was recruited to play the latter sport by several major colleges. However, after the death of his father during his senior year, he made the decision to pursue baseball, which would provide him with the opportunity to support his family sooner than football.

Following his breakout season in 1971, Blue became embroiled in a contract dispute with A’s owner Charlie Finley, even going as far as stepping away from the game to take a job with a steel company.

Blue and Finley eventually came to an agreement facilitated by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, and the southpaw made his return to the A’s on May 24, 1972.

Blue spent nine seasons with the A’s, winning three straight World Series titles and earning three All-Star selections, before being traded across the Bay to the Giants during Spring Training in 1978. San Francisco sent seven players and $300,000 to Oakland for the southpaw.

Blue earned three more All-Star selections with the Giants, including the starting nod for the National League in 1978. Blue, who also started the All-Star Game twice as a member of the A’s, became the first pitcher to start the All-Star Game for both leagues.

Blue served a brief prison sentence for attempting to purchase cocaine and was suspended from baseball by Kuhn, missing the entire 1984 season as a result. After being reinstated and spending 1985-86 with the Giants, Blue returned to the A’s as a free agent, but he abruptly retired in February 1987.

Blue finished his career with a 209-161 record, a 3.27 ERA, 2,175 strikeouts, 143 complete games and 37 shutouts over 3,343 1/3 innings.

He topped out at 8.7% on the baseball writers' ballot for the Hall of Fame in 1993, and he was inducted into the A's Hall of Fame in 2019.

A's manager Mark Kotsay said he recently had a chance to talk with Blue when the organization celebrated the 1973 World Series championship team.

"Always spirited and fun-loving," Kotsay said of Blue. "He loved the Oakland Athletics. The impact he had on this organization is felt to this day. It's definitely a sad day. You feel for his family."