Listen Live

Vida Blue, a left-handed pitcher who won the American League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards in 1971 and led the Athletics to their first division title and three World Series titles in Oakland, died Saturday night. He was 73.

>> Read more trending news

Blue had been battling unspecified health issues, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Blue was a six-time All-Star who spent 17 seasons in the major leagues with Oakland, San Francisco and Kansas City. He won 209 games and won three World Series championships with the Athletics from 1972 to 1974, the East Bay Times reported.

“There are few players with a more decorated career than Vida Blue,” the Athletics said in a statement. “Vida will always be a franchise legend and a friend.”

In April, Blue attended the Athletics reunion of their 1973 World Series championship team at the Oakland Coliseum, the Chronicle reported.

Blue made a splash in the majors late in the 1970 season when he threw a one-hit shutout and a no-hitter. But his breakout season was 1971 when Blue went 24-8 and led the Athletics to their first postseason appearance since 1931. He led the league with a 1.82 ERA and eight shutouts and struck out 301 batters.

He was 17-3 at the All-Star break and started the Midsummer Classic for the A.L.

Blue won the A.L. Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards in 1971, becoming the answer to a fun trivia question — name the last A.L. MVP who was a switch-hitter.

“It’s unbelievable, the stuff that he had,” Hall of Fame reliever Rollie Fingers told MLB Network in 2018. “I would go down to the bullpen and watch him warm up before the ballgame (and) walk back to the dugout and go, ‘Hey, game’s over. He’s got his stuff on. He’s not going to give up any runs today.’”

Blue clashed with Oakland owner Charlie Finley in a salary dispute in 1972 and slumped to a 6-10 record, according to ESPN. During his holdout, Blue worked as a plumbing executive for a local company to earn money, the Times reported.

He bounced back in 1973 and 1974, posting records of 20-9 and 17-15 to help Oakland to their second and third straight World Series crowns.

Oakland third baseman Sal Bando told Sports Illustrated in 1973 that where Blue was “overpowering” hitters in 1971.

“Now he is overmatching them,” Bando told the magazine. “He has learned that he can get people out without throwing hard all the time.”

Blue went 22-11 in 1975, according to Baseball-Reference.com. He was part of another no-hitter in the final game that year, pitching the first five innings of a game against the Angels that was finished by Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Fingers, the Chronicle reported. At the time, it was only the third combined no-hitter in MLB history, according to the newspaper.

Blue became the first pitcher to start All-Star Games for each league, as he took the mound as a member of the Giants in 1978, according to ESPN.

Traded to the Royals in 1982, Blue and several teammates were caught in a federal cocaine investigation, the Chronicle reported. He pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and served 81 days in prison, according to the Times. He was banned from baseball for the 1984 season.

“It was a dark time in my life,” Blue said in 2019, according to the Chronicle. “You use bad judgment. You make bad choices. You learn from them. Sometimes we can overcome them and share them to help others.”

In his autobiography, Blue admitted having substance abuse problems as early as 1972, the Times reported.

Vida Rochelle Blue was the first of six children born to Sallie and Vida Blue Sr. in Mansfield, Louisiana, on July 28, 1949, according to the newspaper. His high school did not have a baseball team, and he was recruited as a quarterback by the University of Houston, the Times reported.

Blue was selected by the Athletics in the second round of the 1967 June amateur draft, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

He played all but two seasons of his career in the Bay Area.

“All I know, man, is it’s a great way to make a living,” Blue said last month in Oakland. “A guy from Mansfield, Louisiana, who came out here to California to seek his fortune. I got to see the world.”