Louisiana pitcher Vida Blue became an award-winning baseball player for the Oakland Athletics.
Vida Rochelle Blue Jr. was a professional baseball pitcher from Mansfield. His 1971 season in California with the Oakland Athletics is historic not only for his record of twenty-four wins and only eight losses, a .750 winning percentage, but also for how he dominated his opponents: Blue pitched twenty-four complete games, eight of them shutout victories. He averaged a strikeout for every 8.7 batters faced, fanning a total of 301 hitters during the season while giving up only 209 hits, an average of only six hits per game. His 1.82 earned run average (ERA) was the lowest in all of baseball that season. In 1971, at the age of twenty-two, Vida Blue became only the third player in baseball history to win the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in the American League and the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award. Blue’s career was on a meteoric course.
Blue was born in Mansfield on July 28, 1949. He was the oldest of six children born to Vida and Sallie Blue. He attended DeSoto High School, where he excelled in both baseball and football. He was a highly recruited prospect by several college programs in both sports when his father died prematurely. The $25,000 signing bonus offered by the Oakland Athletics led the seventeen-year-old to become a professional baseball player in 1967.
After four very productive years in the Oakland minor league system as well as two brief appearances in the majors, Blue was ready to take his place in the Oakland rotation. A brilliant left-handed pitcher, Blue introduced his blazing fastball to opponents during the 1971 season.
He missed much of the 1972 season in a salary dispute with the Athletics; it was finally settled when Oakland agreed to increase his salary from $16,000 to $62,000. However, the hard-fought salary battle took its toll on Blue, whose 1972 record fell to six wins and ten losses, putting him in the bullpen for the pennant-winning Athletics.
During his seventeen-year career, Blue compiled a record of 209 wins and 161 losses, a .565 winning percentage. He won twenty or more games three times in his career (1971, 1973, 1975), was an All-Star six times between 1971 and 1981, and his team won three World Series titles (1972, 1973, 1974). The Sporting News named him Pitcher of the Year in 1971 and 1978.
Blue was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where he works with an organization that promotes baseball among at-risk youth in the inner city. He also appears periodically as an analyst for the Comcast SportsNet Bay Area network covering the San Francisco Giants.