THE NEW YORK TIMES – Vida Blue, who as a rookie with the Oakland Athletics in 1971 threw an unhittable fastball and became baseball’s hottest player, died on Saturday. He was 73.
The Athletics announced his death but did not say where Blue died or provide the cause.
Vida (pronounced VYE-da) Blue was one of the stars of an Athletics team that won the World Series three straight years, from 1972 to 1974. But his performance in those years never reproduced the adulation and hoopla of his first full season.
After losing on opening day to the Washington Senators in 1971, Blue, a lefty, reeled off eight wins in a row. In his first dozen games, he threw five complete-game shutouts.
By the summer, he was leading baseball in not just shutouts but also wins, strikeouts, complete games and earned-run average.
Sports Illustrated and Time magazine put him on their covers. He turned 22 that July.
On the field, he was a man in a hurry. Unlike almost all other pitchers in baseball history, he ran to and from the mound. His delivery concluded with what writer Roger Angell of The New Yorker described as a “leap.”
Opposing hitters spoke mystically of how Blue’s fastballs would disappear or jump over their bats. Reporters speculated about why he carried two dimes in his pocket when he pitched, with some suggesting it was a charm to help him win 20 games.
Across the country, attendance at his outings swelled to levels that stadiums had not seen in years. Fans of an opposing team, the Detroit Tigers, chanted outside the clubhouse, “We want Vida!”
The A’s appeared in the playoffs for the first time since 1931, ultimately losing to the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship.
Blue pulled off the feat of winning, in his first full season, both the Cy Young and the Most Valuable Player Awards …