As any American Leaguer can tell you, Vida Blue is the brilliant young southpaw who compiled a 24-8 record in his first full tour with the majors. Doubly blessed with speed and control, he was chiefly responsible for the A’s easy, 16-game acquisition of the AL West as he toiled superbly through 312 innings to a 1.82 earned run average. If that were not impressive enough, [Charlie] Finley’s super-bargain from Mansfield, La. won the Cy Young Award (its youngest recipient ever), the MVP trophy and an All-Star Game, which he started along with 40 other contests. Perhaps even more to the point, however, Vida got honest-to-goodness baseball crowds inside Oakland Coliseum, where they have long been the exclusive phenomena of the pro football Raiders and Billy Graham.
… About the only thing Vida couldn’t generate was a salary commensurate with his performance. Finley did try to make well-meaning, financial amends, but he handled it badly and in patron fashion, reminiscent of the time he asked Vida to change his name to Vida True Blue as a publicity gimmick even more hokey than it sounds. Without asking, Charlie bought Vida a $10,000 blue Cadillac bearing California plates that read V BLUE—a move he admits was a mistake, with some logic, since Blue last week was driving around in a Pontiac given to him by a car-salesman friend, Ron Freitas. Charlie also ponied up lesser amounts for gasoline, clothing and insurance so that, from the A’s, you could figure Vida made $26,750, give or take a hubcap.
Thus, Vida wasn’t quite as strapped as the $14,750 would indicate. Neither is Finley’s offer the 330% increase he claims it is. Nor is the jump from $26,750 to $92,500 the AAU record for upward mobility. Of course, it is not an amount to be brushed aside, either, unless you play basketball. [Blue’s attorney, Robert J.] Gerst, however, blamed Finley for the stalemate, charging that the A’s owner made up his mind last August that $50,000 was going to be his only offer to Vida.
- Ron Reid (Sports Illustrated)
Read the rest: "Vida Blue Stars in the Great Bathroom Farce" (March 27, 1972)
Cover photo by Fred Kaplan via CardboardHeroes