by Harold Friend
On September 21, 1970, Vida Blue pitched a no-hitter against the soon-to-be American League Western Division champion Minnesota Twins. The 20 year-old Blue had just missed a no-hitter on September 11 when, with two outs in the eighth inning, Kansas City outfielder Pat Kelly singled.
Vida Blue's No-Hitter
In his fourth start of the season, Blue retired the first 11 Twins before walking Harmon Killebrew. In the fifth inning, A's shortstop Bert Campaneris made a brilliant, leaping, backhand stab of a George Mitterwald line drive, and in the eighth, Mitterwald was almost the villain again when he hit a hard ground shot to third off Sal Bando's glove. Bando pounced on the ball and fired to first in time to retire the slow-footed Minnesota catcher.
Minor League Experience
Vida Blue pitched most of the 1970 season for the A's Des Moines, Iowa farm team, where he was 12-3, leading the American Association with a 2.17 ERA and 165 strikeouts. In 1968, he led the Midwest league with 231 strikeouts, and in 1969, Vida Blue led the Southern League in strikeouts while working for Birmingham.
Vida Blue pitched almost 400 minor-league innings before he became a regular major league starting pitcher, gaining the necessary experience to complement his great natural ability. In 1971, he became one of the great young stars in history of the game.
Thirty-Nine Starts, MVP, and Cy Young Award
At the age of 21, Vida Blue started 39 games. No pitcher in 2008 started more than 34 games. Blue pitched 312 innings, For his 17 year career (counting partial seasons), Blue averaged 33 starts and 233 innings a season.
Vida Blue finished 1971 24-8, with a 1.82 ERA, 301 strikeouts, and an 0.952 WHIP. He was the winning pitcher in the All-Star game, won the American League Cy Young Award, and was the league's Most Valuable Player.
In some ways, Blue had two 1971 seasons. At the all-star game break, Blue had won 17 games and averaged more than one strikeout an inning, but he was only 7-5 during the second half.
The Orioles made short work of Vida in the playoffs. He gave up five runs in seven innings in the opening game, losing to Dave McNally, 5-3. The Birds from Baltimore sweep the A's, only to lose to the Pirates in the World Series.
Charles Finley and the Salary Dispute
After his great 1971 season, Blue and A's owner became embroiled in a bitter salary dispute. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn had to step in to resolve the problem. Vida missed spring training in 1972, appeared to be out of shape, and produced a 6-10 season. The fact that he had pitched 312 innings at the age of 21 was not a factor in his ineffectiveness. Vida Blue had a major problem.
The Drug Problem
Blue, many years later, finally acknowledged that a combination of factors, including drug problems, had contributed to his poor season. The drug problem haunted him beyond his career and prevented him from being ranked among the greatest of all left-handed pitchers.
SOUTHPAW WALKS ONE MAN, FANS 9 :Gets Brilliant Support From Campaneris and Bando? Had One-Hitter Sept. 11. (1970, September 22). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 56. Retrieved September 21, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 78168652).
Rhapsody in Blue :Arthur Daley. (1971, November 18). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 63. Retrieved September 21, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 90701667).