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In Memoriam: Vida Blue

From the moment that Vida Blue signed his first professional contract with the Kansas City A's, he was motivated by one thing: to take care of his family. Born on July 28, 19449 in Mansfield, Louisiana, Blue was one of six children. Growing up, he was inspired by his father's work ethic. He never grew up needing anything, but his father's meager wages as a laborer left young Vida yearning for more. When his father died while Vida was a senior in high school, he was left with a decision that would reverberate throughout his life. Baseball or football?

Sure the young man had been good enough that his high school (that didn't even have a team when he first arrived) literally built one around their aspiring pitcher. At the time, football was his true love. But looking at the five-digit, two-year contract staring him in the face, Vida Blue knew that he would have to give up the offers from programs such as Notre Dame and Purdue and forego the unique opportunity to be a Black quarterback in the state of Texas, playing for the University of Houston. The immediate money from baseball was too tempting for the young man. While he still loved football so much more, his love for his family was stronger.

The windfall was immediate and by the time he reached the big leagues in 1969, the A's had moved to Oakland, California. While Vida didn't know it yet, he would soon adopt the San Francisco Bay Area as his home. He showed promise and tenacity early on, hitting a three-run homer in his first start, but gave up four runs in five innings during the same afternoon at Comiskey Park. He came back stronger the next time around, beating the Kansas City Royals in a one-hit shutout.

Just two years later, he won 24 games, led both leagues with eight complete game shutouts, posted a scintillating 1.82 ERA and won the Cy Young Award and league MVP while going to his first All-Star Game. It would be the first of six, earning five more All-Star appearances between the A's and the Giants for the next decade.

Along the way, Vida Blue became one of the catalysts of that era's dynasty and gained much more than he would ever expect. While the A's won three straight World Series titles, they began to resemble a family. Families come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the better elements of a family is that despite their differences, in the end, they will always be there for one another. No matter what. The A's resembled theta perfectly. It seemed like they were always fighting. But despite their differences, when the Fall Classic loomed, they were ready to make history.

And Vida Blue was in the center of it all. When he left Oakland for San Francisco in 1978, it was the close of a special, special era for the Athletics. He won over hearts across the Bay too, earning All-Star invitations in 1978, 1980 and 1981. While his 13-17 two-year record in Kansas City is long forgotten, his final two-year stint in San Francisco in 1985 and 1986 is not. After all, even though the Giants rarely won in those days, Blue still managed to win 18 games. between those years.

After he retired in 1986, he immediately jumped into broadcasting, becoming a longtime analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area. His heart remained in the Bay Area when he married his wife Sharon on the pitcher's mound at Candlestick Park in September of 1989. It was truly a Giants affair, with Willie McCovey serving as his best man and Orlando Cepeda escorting the bride to the mound. Years later, he would be enshrined in the A's Hall of Fame and on the Giants' Wall of Fame, his legacy forever embedded in the hearts of Bay Area fans everywhere. Vida Blue passed away on May 6, 2023. He was 73.

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