Vida Blue began his love for baseball when he was just a boy growing up in Mansfield Louisiana. In 1969, when Vida was just 23 years old, he signed a contract with the Oakland A’s.
Alan: Welcome back I’m here today with Vida Blue, he’s a legend in baseball especially here in the bay area He had a successful career with the Oakland A’s. Vida welcome to today’s show.
Vida: Thank you very much for having me.
Alan: So Vida I got to go back. It’s great to have you here today on the show. I remember watching you as a kid. You were one of my hero’s.
Vida: You mean that I’m that old? No, I’m kidding; go ahead I’m sorry.
Alan: No we’re good. So let’s go back. How did you transition into a baseball career?
Vida: Well you know growing up in Louisiana in the summer time that’s all I did, was play sports. There were no Gameboys or electronic devices around. As a matter of fact my parents used to kick me out of the house “get out of the house go do something” “yes ma’am”. And you can’t rake leaves in the summer, because everything is in growth everything is in bloom. And so I played sports. Pick up ball with friends, stick ball in the streets, throwing balls against the fence, playing with friends. The way kids grew up. You know I’m sure that still happens but not as much as it did then because that’s all we had as I mentioned. So we got organized and played in summer leagues and it grew from there but I was just lucky to be blessed with the ability to throw a baseball. I don’t think that it’s that big of a deal. I’m glad that I took the opportunity to play professional ball because it was a source of income to help my family after my father passed away to help my sisters through school and my brother and my mom to help them to survive. I think it was God’s saying that I was the chosen one out of my family to become the breadwinner after my father passed away, being the oldest of the 6 kids.
Alan: How old were you when your father passed away?
Vida: I had turned 18 that July of ’69 I think it was. But yeah, it was crazy how it all came about and I got a chance. I got drafted by the A’s to play baseball. As I mentioned the opportunity presented itself and I took advantage of it.
Alan: So you started your career with the Oakland A’s?
Alan: And I imagine that baseball was much different then than it is today…
Vida: No it was the same. Same game. They make a lot more money now and that’s ok. I have no regrets about that the money I made I put it to good use. As I mentioned it allowed me to function everyday. Like I mentioned it helped to put my sisters through college. One of my sisters is a chemist, the other is an executive bank secretary and my sister Annette is law enforcement and she’s the Dare officer back in our little town of Mansfield Louisiana. Sister number 4 is Sandra and she works for Sunbeam, and she’s worked for them for a long time. But I got to play baseball for a living and I never think of it as a job when you’re having fun and getting to entertain people.
Alan: So you were with four teams in your baseball career. The Oakland A’s from ‘69-77 The San Francisco Giants from ‘78-81 The Kansas City Royals from ‘81-83. And then back to the Giants ‘82-86. Was there a team that you most connected with?
Vida: Probably the ‘72 A’s because I turned 22 that year and that was the first year that we won the championship the first of three that we went on to win. I was the youngest player on the team, and some the guys were like uncles and some of them were more or less like father figures to me. Again being the youngest kid there. Going to the world series was new to all of us, it was a great achievement. But it was something that I would never forget the connection that you have with your teammates, because they are kind of like an extension of your family, because you spend so much time together and you’re fighting for that one common goal which is to win a championship as an athlete.
Alan: When you won the CY Young award in ’71 how did that set on you?
Vida: I don’t know. Again I was so young that I couldn’t appreciate winning the awards, the MVP and CY Young. But as I got older I could appreciate the hard work and the commitment that went into what I did and have the success that I had, and to be voted the best player to win the CY Young and the American League for sure and to be voted the best player of the whole league. You know that’s like one guy out of 700-800 guys. That chosen one again. It’s pretty cool now that I think about it. Pretty cool.
Alan: I’m visiting here today with Vida Blue, the legendary baseball player. Vida we need to take a quick break but when we get back I’d like to talk about what you are doing with the youth of today. We’ll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back. I’m here today with Vida Blue. He’s a baseball legend, he played for the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants. I imagine hearing the baseball, baseball, baseball all your life.
Vida: Yeah I do.
Alan: But I guess you deserve it after winning the world series three years in a row or being with the Oakland A’s during that time.
Vida: I guess. I don’t know. It was just something that I did, it was my profession. Like any other job it’s a form of entertainment for the masses that watch it on television or go to the games. I’m just out there throwing a baseball, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Now if I could balance my check book that’s more challenging to me than throwing a baseball. But you know I try and understand it from another person’s perspective about what we did as athletes on the field and I get that part of it. But to me we are just throwing a baseball.
Alan: They have all of this technology now with radar guns to see how fast you are throwing, among other things. Did they have that back then?
Vida: No they didn’t and they estimated that I threw 94-95 miles an hour and I guess that’s accurate I don’t know. But look, I was born and raised in Mansfield Louisiana, and it was a kind of sad, environment that I grew up in. Kind of a depressed and suppressed environment. But sports were my way out, not the only way out but it was a way out that I used to get out of that situation. I still go back to Mansfield Louisiana, I mean it is home. Home is home you can’t deny that. There are a lot of things that I wish that I could change, and hopefully I can have an impact on the people of that town in a positive way hopefully. But sports were just something that I did. I’m glad people make a big deal out of it, but I was just another man who played baseball. To me it was just a baseball game. To me I can appreciate seeing people walk up and tell that that they saw me pitch and they can appreciate what I did. Like “you gave me a baseball 30 years ago and I gave it to my son”. Those are stories that I just love to hear.
Alan: I want to go back to the CY Young awards and being one of the most valuable players in 71. What lead up to that? I don’t think many people have both in the same year, CY Young and MVP.
Vida: There are about 8-10 pitchers that have won it, because only pitchers can win the Cy Young award and there has always been a bit of controversy on whether or not the pitcher should be allowed to be the MVP. The answer to that is that if he makes that big of an impact on the league over all that he should be considered. And I was considered and I won the award. I’m not even sure who came in second that year for MVP voting. I know that Mickey Lolich a left handed pitcher from the Detroit Tigers finished second in the Cy Young voting. But it’s quite an award to have, but I don’t know it just went out there and did what I could and I was blessed with the ability to throw a baseball. That one year the stars just lined up for me where Vida Blue could be the MVP and the Cy Young award winner. I didn’t do any more or any less or anything special, I just went out there and did what I was blessed to do, and I set out to just throw a baseball. I guess I just had that “it” factor that one year I don’t know.
Alan: I’m visiting here today with Vida Blue, he’s a baseball legend here in the San Francisco Bay Area, playing for both the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants. Now Vida I need to take a quick break and we will be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back. I’m here today with Vida Blue, he‘s a baseball legend here in the Bay Area, playing for both the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants. Vida I want to move beyond baseball because there have obviously been a lot of years where you’ve stepped out of baseball in 1986 to today. What have you been working on?
Vida: I do a lot of charity work and I’m involved with a school in Oakland called Northern Lights. I went there three years ago to speak to the 8th grade class. 3 years ago and counting they have named their field after me, I have a golf tournament with my name on it to earn money for their sports and theatre programs. I am a strong believer in giving back to the community. Growing up in Mansfield Louisiana my mother and my neighbors were watching me all the time making sure that I do the right thing. I had eyes on me all the time man. But just knowing that all those folks taking the time to make sure that I got fatherly and motherly advice and to help in any way that they could as far as my athletic career went when I played amateur sports in high school back in Mansfield Louisiana. It’s just the natural thing for me to want to give back. And Northern Lights school is near and dear to my heart. I do a lot of stuff there. I go and visit with the classes. I go and sit with the 8th grade class one day and I might go and sit with the 2nd grade class one day. It’s K-8. I might go and sit with the kindergartners and go to lunch with them and so it’s pretty cool to be doing that. They all know who I am which is not a big deal, but the mere fact that they see someone positive in their lives is a good thing. I’m a true believer that there is no such things as a bad kid. I think that he or she will do the stuff that we teach him or her to do. And if we can keep it all positive we are better off in the long run to keep the things they do positive.
Alan: I love that, positive reinforcement. Now tell me what are some of the challenges that you see happening?
Vida: Well, the old adage children raising children, teen pregnancies and all of the crazy stuff that goes on in our world today. The world is going mad, and we got to slow that madness down. I do believe that if we teach kids to do the right thing they will do that. There isn’t a bad kid that I know, I always try and give a child the benefit of the doubt. I always tell the teenagers “shake my hand while you still know everything” because I was the same way. It’s the evolution of life I think. When I was 18 I wanted to be 21, and as I tell my 22 year old kids now, enjoy being 22. You don’t have to be 25 today, just enjoy being 22. Enjoy life on life’s terms today and you may think you haven’t been dealt a good hand but sometime you might go and see that you’ve been blessed with the hand that you’ve been dealt. So just try and live life to the fullest and make yourself available to help someone else because when you give it always comes back to you. At least that’s how I was brought up and taught.
Alan: You have a lot of faith in your life.
Vida: Oh absolutely. Yeah, look at me man! Just look! I’m this way everyday! I don’t have a wrinkle in my forehead. I say “what is that?” “life is good”. Again you can look at your circumstances and say “This is no fair why me!” Or you can look and say “ok this happened” and so to every problem there is a solution. You got to go to Plan A and if that doesn’t work you need to go to Plan B and continue on. I go to Plan D sometimes and if it doesn’t work I’ll try something else, and if that doesn’t work I’ll try something else. And I keep going until I get back the positive self that I want to get out of my life that day. And life is a day to day challenge. To survive for some people, to function for other people. Just to get along with their day to day lives. It’s challenging. It’s not easy, nothing is easy, and II wouldn’t sit here and lie to you on this camera right now and say that it is, because life is challenging for some people every day.
Alan: Out of all of the kids that you have worked with over the years , are there certain instances or memories that stand out?
Vida: Yeah, well there’s a kid I know who, just to reference what I talked about. He wasn’t dealt, in my opinion, a good hand in life. His mom had issues and he was like a crack-baby. He went to the same school, Northern Lights School, and now he’s attending De La Salle High school, which a lot of kids from Northern Lights School have gone to. He’s put his life together, he’s moved on. His mother will always be his mother and he has to show respect to her. He’s come a long ways and this kid I said “ there’s no way; the deck is stacked against this kid”. But he’s fought through all of those odds and he’s like a miracle child to me. Because he’s done all of the right things, he’s worked his tail off and is a good student at De La Salle. He’s a good athlete, but he wants to be a good student athlete. I expect good things from his in the next two years of his life.
Alan: Now you’re working with the kids at Northern Light. You’re really on campus and involved with these kids.
Vida: Yes, yes I am. I enjoy it, and I can’t say enough about the staff that they have there too because they show so much patience with students. You know the average classroom probably has 8-10 students and so they really take the time because they don’t have an agenda where they have to be on chapter 20 by sometime next week. They can go real slow to make sure everyone is learning what is being taught but it’s great for students who can’t move at the same pace and they have some gifted students there that can move real fast but that same student will go over and assist the teacher in assisting another student in getting what it is that they are teaching and helping them in the proper way.
Alan: What advice would you give to a student who aspires to be an athlete but they have to get through the schooling as well?
Vida: Well if you want to be an athlete you care about sports and sports is a good teacher about when you need to work together. It’s a good teacher about failing when you lose a game. My advice to a student that wants to be student athlete is that you need to be committed to doing both. You need to work just as hard on the athletic field as you do in the classroom, if not harder in the classroom. Because the other one opens the door for you to do bigger and better person. You can be a good athlete and not a good student. But the deal is for you to be a good person. That’s the bottom line, to be good person on a day to day basis. We all have challenges with doing the right thing, but the trick is to do the right thing.
Alan: Now Vida you have a golf tournament coming up?
Vida: I do.
Alan: And when is that can you give us some more information?
Vida: What’s the date? October 27th at TPC in Hayward. The new course, they have a new clubhouse there, and we are raising money for Northern Lights school. I was so convinced to put my name on the tournament; it’s our second tournament. I hope that some one here in your big audience will be able to participate, October 27th.
Alan: Ok Vida thanks for being on today’s show.
Vida: My pleasure man this is cool.
Alan: We’ll be right back after these messages.