Monday, May 16, 2022

1981 Topps Vida Blue

First off, RIP to former minor leaguer Kevin Garner. He shared his thoughts on baseball cards with this blog in 2010.

The front: Very simple, kind of boring photo of one of baseball's more colorful personalities.

The back: Twelve years in the league don't leave room for a bio blurb.

The player: Blue burst onto the national scene as a 21-year old rookie in 1971, going 24-8 with 301 strikeouts and a 1.82 ERA. He held out for much of 1972 and slipped considerably, going 6-10 and being demoted to the bullpen. However, his strikeout and ERA numbers, though not as good as '71, were still better than most pitchers in the league. He rebounded to win 20 games in '73. Blue was never again as dominant as he was in '71 (he never struck out 200 batters again, let alone 300), but he still put up excellent numbers for Oakland and San Francisco though the 1981 season. Blue was traded to the Royals before the 1982 season, and quickly became embroiled in the cocaine scandals that engulfed that team. He was suspended for the 1984 season, though he returned in 1985 and 1986 as a solid starter for the Giants. He signed with the A's in 1987 but abruptly retired in spring training, presumably due to more drug problems. His career 209-161 record and 3.27 ERA compare well to other pitchers of his era who get Hall of Fame consideration. He is hurt by not living up to his rookie-year hype, his history of drug abuse, and a poor postseason record (1-5, 4.31 ERA in 17 games).

The man: Blue was one of the players most directly involved in the cocaine scandals of the 1980s, eventually serving 81 days in jail. Substance abuse continued to haunt him after his career, with at least three DUI arrests in the 2000s and 2010s. Recently he has been an announcer for the Giants and been involved in various charitable endeavors.

My collection: I have 37 of his cards, from 1970 to 1987. I would be interested in trading for 1971 Topps #544.


  1. Sorry to hear of Garner's passing. I added a link to the error card he talked about in the comments there, and I'll put it here to. A card ostensibly of Garner, who is white, but the picture is of Terry McDaniel, who is not.

  2. One of these days I need to read up on the whole cocaine in baseball thing. It's a subject I know very little about.