#CardCorner: 1978 Topps Vida Blue
And yet Blue’s best – as a pitching anchor of the dynastic Oakland A’s teams of that decade – was still to come.
Born in Mansfield, La., on July 28, 1948, Vida Rochelle Blue starred in both baseball and football in high school, striking out 21 batters in one game on the diamond while throwing 35 touchdown passes in his senior season on the gridiron. He was taken by the Kansas City Athletics with their second-round pick (No. 27 overall) in the 1967 amateur draft and struck out 231 batters for the Class A Burlington Bees of the Midwest League in 1968 after the parent franchise had moved to Oakland.
By 1969, Blue was in the majors as 19-year-old left-handed flamethrower. He struggled to a 1-1 record and 6.64 ERA in 12 appearances before heading to Triple-A Iowa for more seasoning in 1970. There, Blue went 12-3 with a 2.17 ERA before the A’s made him a September call-up.
In his second start, Blue one-hit the Kansas City Royals on Sept. 11 – taking a no-hitter into the bottom of the eighth inning before Pat Kelly singled with two outs. Blue completed the one-hitter, then recorded a no-decision against the Brewers on Sept. 15.
Six days later, Blue no-hit the eventual AL West champion Minnesota Twins – striking out nine while allowing only a fourth-inning walk to Harmon Killebrew.
“I seriously started thinking about a no-hitter in the fifth inning.” Blue told McClatchy Newspapers Service. “I threw mostly fastballs. I didn’t have a good curve until late.”
Blue finished the season with a 2-0 record and 2.09 ERA in six starts for the Athletics then returned home to Louisiana. There, his hometown of Mansfield honored him with Vida Blue Day on Dec. 4.
A little more than seven months later, Blue stood at 18-3 after his first post All-Star Game start and appeared poised to make a run at a 30-win season. He was the talk of the sports world, landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated and attracting record crowds in every game he pitched – home or away.
He fell short of the 30-win mark at 24-8 – hampered by owner Charlie Finley’s order to manager Dick Williams to start Blue at home as much as possible, knocking Blue off his regular schedule. But Blue still but posted a 1.82 ERA, a league-best eight shutouts and 301 strikeouts en route to the 1971 AL Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards. The A’s won 101 games and the AL West title that season, but fell to the Orioles in the ALCS.
Few pitchers combined a high peak and long-term success like Vida Blue.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum