Vida Blue, the dominant left-handed pitcher who became one of the most popular players in the early 1970s and was instrumental in helping the Oakland A’s win three straight World Series championships before his career was derailed by problems with drugs, has passed away. He was 73 years old.
The A’s reported Blue died Saturday, but did not release a cause of death.
“There are few players with as illustrious a career as Vida Blue,” the team said in a statement on Sunday. “Vida will always be a franchise legend and friend.”
Blue grabbed the Cy Young Awards for best pitcher and AL MVP in 1971, a season in which he went 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts. He also pitched 24 complete games, including eight shutouts. He remains one of 11 pitchers to have won both awards in the same year.
Blue retired 209-161 with a 3.27 ERA, 2,175 strikeouts, 143 complete games and 37 shutouts in 17 seasons with Oakland (1969-77), San Francisco (1978-81, 85-86) and Kansas City ( 1982-83).
A six-time All-Star, Blue was the ace of the A’s dynasty, the charismatic team of mustachioed ballplayers — with Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers as the other strongholds — that linked three World Series championships between 1972 and 1974. Since then, only the New York Yankees between 1998 and 2000 have managed to complete that feat.
After Blue aired his differences with A’s owner Charley Finley, the team attempted to trade him twice, but both trades were stopped by commissioner Bowie Kuhn. The first was in June 1976 to the New York Yankees and then in December 1977 to the Cincinnati Reds. Kuhn vetoed the transactions by invoking the commissioner’s power to act in the “best interests of baseball.”
“Vida Blue was an icon of baseball in the Bay region for 50 years,” Giants president Larry Baer said in a statement. “His impact in the Bay region transcends his 17 years on the diamond with the influence that he had in our community.”