Who was this player? Vida Blue, starting pitcher, San Francisco Giants As the ace of the Giants pitching staff, Blue was coming off a tumultuous 1979 season in which the Giants were expected to contend. Blue pitched poorly that year (a career worst 5.01 ERA) and refused to speak to the press. He rebounded during the 1980 season and was named to the All Star team. Injuries interrupted the '80 campaign and likely another 20-win season for the lefthander.
Vida Blue arrived on the baseball landscape throwing a no-hitter late in the 1970 season and exploded as a phenomenon during the 1971 season, when he won the AL Cy Young and MVP awards, all at the age of 22. A bitter contract battle with A's owner Charlie Finley ensued during that off season that led to a disasterous 1972 campaign. He did however, pitch well during the playoffs and World Series to help the A's win the title.
He was a crucial component of the A's dynasty of the early 1970s, winning 20 games twice more as a member of the A's. With the onset of free agency however, Finley dismantled his champions and tried to sell Blue; first to the Yankees and later to the Reds. Comissioner Bowie Kuhn vetoed both transactions. Prior to the 1978 season, he was traded across the bay to the San Francisco Giants. In 1981, he became the first (and only) pitcher to win an All Star game in both leagues.
Blue's career was derailed in the early 1980s by drug use and addiction and he was suspended for all of the 1984 season while with the Kansas City Royals. He returned to the Giants in 1985 and was a .500 pitcher in his final two seasons. He retired after the 1986 season and 17 years in the majors.
On fan appreciation day in 1989, Vida was married at Candlestick Park. Orlando Cepeda gave away the bride and Willie McCovey was the best man. Over 50,000 fans were in attendance. Blue continued to work with the Giants as part of their community relations department, but he continued to be plagued by substance issues.
Why I love this card The spring training setting in which this photo was taken. With the several trees in the background it looks like any kid's little league photos (in my case at Brys Park). Just another similarity where a 9-year old can identify with a major league player.
Something else.... From 2001-2004, there was an band named Vida Blue. The band was fronted by Page McConnell of Phish and included Oteil Burbridge of The Allman Brothers Band and Russell Batiste of The Meters. Blue himself joined them on stage at least on one occassion. In addition, Demi Moore's dog is also named in tribute to him.
This blog is inspired by several influences; first, the other blogs dedicated to a single season of Topps sets and the folks at http://www.deanscards.com/, who provide a great resource of all years of cards (and from whom I stole the awesome header).
Mainly though, this blog is inspired by my Dad who during the summer of 1980, fully introduced me to the great game of baseball through these cards. Every one of these cards is somehow connected to a memory of that time.