Free Vida Blue!
Albert Jones Vida Blue 45 (Tri-City, 1971)
Growing up in Sacramento, inland and east of the San Francisco Bay, you had two choices of what baseball team you rooted for. If you were a National League fan, you cheered for the Philadelphia Phillies. Surprised? You'd of thunk the SF Giants. Nope, not when Sacramento boy Larry Bowa was a Phil. If you like the American League, you supported the Oakland A's. Since my dad is a New Yorker and a Yankies fan, we were an American League household. So my brother and I grew up watching the A's.
We got to see the A's in their most exciting period, that of the era of Charlie Finley and the Moustache Gang. The A's of the early 70's was part circus and part freak show. Like almost all A's teams, it was one of misfits, spare parts, and castoffs. But these guys were good. One of the best was Vida Blue, their ace pitcher and the most fun A to watch. Vida windup was drama. He threw from a high stepping sprawl, like his whole body was a spring. And when the ball left his hand it was a blur.
In 1971, he won the Cy Young and MVP and helped his team to the World from 1972 to 1974. In 72, he held out part of the season looking for more money and opted to sell vacuum cleaners instead of play for tightwad Charlie O. He came back later in the year and killed. Seventy-two was also the year, Blue started to use cocaine. In 78, he was traded to the Giants. He pitched well but as his career went on his numbers dropped and his drug use increased. He signed to the A's in 1987, but left before the season ended rather than take a drug test.
His post-Big League life saw a couple DUIs and more alcohol and drug abuse. He got a break in the late 90s when the Giants hired him as a community outreach person. He ran the Junior Giants, a group dedicated to getting poor kids off the street and into the ball park. In 2004, he was arrested for another DUI. Earlier this month he was sentenced to 6 months in jail for violating terms of his probation.
This funk gem was released in 1971, when Blue was pitching his best year. It is one of the best baseball songs I know of. The flip is a country version of the same song, this by Tom Newton, the songwriter.