Vida Blue, probably the first player to wear his first name on the back of his uniform in the major leagues, has died at the age of 73.
Blue won 209 games in a 17-year career. He was the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner in 1971 when he was only 21 years old. So talented was the lefty, that he threw a one-hitter in his sixth big league start, and a no-hitter in his eighth start in the majors.
Blue had a high leg kick and hid the baseball very well. He’s still the youngest player to win the Most Valuable Player Award and the youngest to throw a no-hitter. His arrival as a September call up in 1970 was a sensation, though much of it happened on the west coast before games were being zapped across the country. In his first start, Vida hit a home run. In his second start that season for the A;s, Blue took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before he finally allowed a single with two outs. He settled for a one-hitter. Two starts later at the Oakland Coliseum, Blue pitched a no-hitter against the Twins. He was 20 years old. The following season he was 17-3 at the All-Star break.
Catcher Dave Duncan said, “When he pitches, you know you might be in on some baseball history because every time he starts, there’s a chance it’ll be a perfect game, or a 20-strikeout game. He’s that good.”
Charlie Finley offered Blue $2,000 if he would change his name to “True Blue,” but Vida resisted. His father, Vida Blue Sr., died when Vida Jr. was a senior in high school, and the pitcher wanted to continue under the same name. Later in his career, Blue became the first major leaguer to wear his first name on the back of his uniform. As far as I can tell, Blue and Ichiro Suzuki are the only players to wear their first names on their jerseys.
The clip below shows Blue fielding a bunt during the 1975 All-Star Game.