Thursday, July 10, 2014

Player Profile: Vida Blue

I have 21 cards of Vida Blue. This one is from 1978 Topps. I love the incongruity of the word "Blue" written in black on a white shirt under a green and yellow shirt.

Playing career: Vida Blue’s 1971 season was one of the greatest breakout-seasons ever. Though not a complete unknown (he threw a no-hitter in a September call-up the previous year), the 21-year-old set the baseball world on fire, going 24-8 with 301 strikeouts and a 1.82 ERA, winning both the Cy Young and MVP awards. The next season was truncated by a hold-out (unheard of today but fairly common in pre-free-agency days), and when he returned he was still a very solid pitcher, though unable to completely capture the electric stuff of his magical 1971. In fact, he never even struck out even 200 batters again, let alone 300. Still, he was one of the most consistent pitchers of the 1970s, making at least 34 starts a year with the A’s, and later the Giants, and only twice recording ERAs over 3.25. A trade to the Kansas City Royals, one of the most drug-addled teams in baseball, before the 1982 season put Blue firmly on a downward spiral, however. After the 1983 season he was one of four Royals to plead guilty to attempt to purchase cocaine. His career ended after a comeback with the Giants in 1985 and 1986.

Interesting facts: Blue has continued to battle addiction after his baseball career. He was a menace to northern California drivers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, being arrested three times for drunk driving.

Blue dabbled in the entertainment industry to capitalize on his newfound celebrity after the 1971 season. He joined Bob Hope on a USO tour of Vietnam and had a small role in the Jim Brown/Martin Landau film Black Gunn.

Where he is now: A baseball analyst and community representative for the Giants.

My memories: He is from before my time, though I had often heard about him.

Google Autocomplete results: He is third when you type Vida , between Vida Ricky Martin, referring to a song, and Vida Yoga, referring to a yoga location in Greenwich Village. There are no other prominent individuals named Vida Blue, but an electronic-music band that took their name from the ballplayer gained some prominence in the early 2000s. Vida Blue the pitcher joined Vida Blue the band on stage in a 2004 concert in San Francisco.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Jim Blueberg.

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