Vida Blue Cause of Death: How Did Former Oakland A’s and SF Giants Star Die?

Former Oakland Athletics rookie and baseball's hottest player in 1971 when he hurled an unhittable fastball, Vida Blue, passed away on Saturday. He was 73. The Athletics acknowledged Blue's passing but did not specify the location or cause of death.

The Athletics won the World Series in 1972, 1973 & 1974, with Vida Blue as a key player each year. However, he was never able to match the praise and excitement of his debut season with his subsequent performances.

Blue, a lefty, lost his first game of 1971 to the Washington Senators, but then won his next eight. Five of his first twelve starts were complete game shutouts. By the end of the season, he had set baseball records for shutouts, victories, strikeouts, complete games, and earned run average.

He was always in a rush out there on the field. He raced to and from the mound, which sets him apart from virtually every other pitcher in baseball history. Writer Roger Angell of The New Yorker called the climax of his speech a “leap.”

Blue's fastballs had a legendary reputation among his opponents, who said they would magically vanish or leap over their bats. Some reporters even claimed that the presence of two dimes in his pocket was a lucky charm that helped him win 20 games.

The number of people that showed up to his performances across the country was the highest that many stadiums had seen in a long time. Outside the locker room, Detroit Tigers fans screamed, “We want Vida!”

The A's made the postseason for the first time since 1931, but they were eliminated by the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Championship Game. In his rookie campaign, Blue was so dominant that he was named both the league's Cy Young Award winner and MVP.

Vida Blue Cause of Death

Blue's salary was rather meager at around $15,000, so he saved up in anticipation of a large windfall. He was once described by President Richard Nixon as “the most underpaid player in baseball.”

Charles O. Finley, the eccentric and obstinate owner of the A's, offered Blue $2,000 to officially alter his name to Vida True Blue so that the team could use the moniker in promotional materials. Blue refused.

Blue was given his name in honor of his late father. “I honor him every time the name Vida Blue appears in the headlines,” Blue said to Time. The question was posed, “If Mr. Finley thinks it's such a great name, why doesn't he call himself True O. Finley?”

Blue predicted that he would earn $115,000 following the 1971 season. Finley responded with $50,000 and publicized the dispute. At a press conference, Blue announced his intention to leave professional athletics and take a job in public relations for a steel manufacturer.

Blue and Finley reached a final agreement on $63,150. After Blue's incredible 1971 campaign, during which he seemed on track to become the first player in MLB history to win 30 games, he got off to a slow start in 1972 and finished with a 6-10 record.

In relief, he performed effectively but not spectacularly as the A's won the postseason and the World Series. “That man has soured me on baseball,” Blue said of Finley to The New York Times in 1973.

I'll never forget the way he treated me like a damn colored boy, no matter what he did for me in the future. After racking up 20 or more victories in three of his first five seasons, Blue established himself as a dominant regular-season pitcher.

The A's following postseason success can be attributed in part to his efforts. Behind the microphones is Vida Blue, dressed in a checkered suit. Two men in dark suits stand on either side of him, and one of them is puffing on a cigarette.

Blue asked for a salary increase to $115,000 from $15,000 after his first year. Finally, he agreed to pay $63,000 and walk away. The agreement was publicized there. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, Blue, and Oakland Athletics owner Charles Finley, from left to right.

Even before he changed it, Blue's name stood out among the Athletics' roster of unusual names. Blue Moon Odom, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Mudcat Grant, and Rick Monday were all members of this group.

In 1978, after being traded to the San Francisco Giants, Blue had another successful season, going 18-10 with a 2.79 ERA. But it was off the pitch that he would become more well-known.

The federal government interviewed Blue and several other Kansas City Royals players in 1983 as part of a drug investigation. He admitted to having the substance and was sentenced to 81 days in prison and a year's ban from baseball.

Vida Blue Cause of Death

It was a shocking turn of events for a celebrity who had been acclaimed for his maturity and composure when he was only 22. Blue hinted at a long history of substance misuse in his autobiography “Vida Blue: A Life,” published in 2011.

There was “a growing darkness reaching for me” alongside his “glory that I'd achieved,” he wrote. His argument with Finley took place in 1972, but by then “the light had already begun to dim.”

On July 28, 1949, in the sleepy northern Louisiana town of Mansfield, Vida Rochelle Blue Jr. was born. His father was a steel mill worker, and the street his family resided on was unpaved.

Because of Vida's fame as a young athlete, his high school decided to start a baseball team. His overwhelming velocity on the mound made outfielders tune him out since they knew they couldn't hit him and left his catcher's hand sore for days.

He, too, was a star quarterback, but when his father unexpectedly passed away at age 45, his hopes to play college football were derailed. Sallie Blue, Vida's mother, has proclaimed him the new head of the household.

Time reports that the Athletics offered him a $35,000 signing bonus when he was only 18 years old. He gave a sizable portion to his loved ones. Before the 1987 season, Blue decided to end his career.

Following his playing days, he took a job with the Giants as a television analyst. He was not inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he occasionally gave interviews to reporters in which he blamed his drug use for the decision.

The Washington Post reported in 2021 that an elderly Blue had addressed a class of high school kids at the suggestion of a friend. One young man's home life was particularly trying at the time.

Blue pulled him aside and told him about his own hard times growing up. They ended up sobbing together. “I worked my tail off to polish that image back up and renew the name, Vida Blue Jr.,” he said to The Post. Each day is a struggle to maintain that.

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