Vida Blue Winds Up at Rickwood
Snap on your bow ties and call in sick to work, because former Oakland A’s pitcher Vida Blue will toss out the first pitch for this year’s Rickwood Classic on April 25. The annual game, played at Rickwood Field, features the Birmingham Barons, decked out in vintage 1928 uniforms, battling it out with the Chattanooga Lookouts.
Vida Blue compiled a 10-3 record during a 1969 tour of Double-A baseball duty in Birmingham. Two years later, he was in Oakland, striking out 301 batters as he chalked up an ERA of 1.82 to win the Cy Young award and MVP. (His salary that year was $14,700.)
With an unforgettable moniker and a blistering pitching delivery, Blue was the perfect fit for the Oakland A’s. Sporting white shoes, sunshine-yellow uniforms, and long-haired pitchers with names like Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers, the A’s of the early 1970s were a powerhouse club years ahead of other major leaguers in terms of style. Owner Charlie Finley’s insatiable addiction to garish flamboyance established a collection of personalities never before encountered on a baseball diamond. The A’s were poster boys for irreverence, bringing to baseball what Joe Namath had brought to the American Football League a few years earlier. Blue was one of the aces on the rotating wrecking crew that debilitated hitters’ efforts during the Oakland A’s string of World Series titles from 1972 to 1974. A left-handed flame-thrower, Blue dazzled the baseball world in 1971 with his powerful wind-up as he pitched eight shut-outs en route to a 24-8 record. He threw a no-hitter against the Twins that year; a walk to Harmon Killebrew was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect game. Blue was also the first pitcher to start for each league in the All-Star Game.
Blue had an early run-in with Finley for refusing to comply with the owner’s request that he change his first name to “True.” Some of Finley’s affection for gaudy promotion must have rubbed off on Blue, however. The pitcher staged his wedding in Candlestick Park in 1989 (he spent the end of his career as a San Francisco Giant) before 50,000 spectators to celebrate Fan Appreciation Day. Former baseball great Orlando Cepeda gave away the bride and Giants’ legend Willie McCovey was best man.
For more on Vida Blue see interview, link above