July 28th, 2012

July 28 – Happy Birthday Vida Blue

According to Baseball-Reference.com, only 27 former big-league players were born on this date. Other than February 29, I’ve come across no other date during the year when fewer Major League players celebrate a birthday. The most famous player born on this date also once became a Yankee, unofficially for three days anyway. That would be the mega-talented left-handed pitcher, Vida Blue, who first burst on the big league scene in 1970 with Oakland, when he pitched two shutouts including a no-hitter in six late-season starts. Then in 1971, Blue became the best pitcher in baseball with a 24-8 record, a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts for the A’s, winning the AL MVP and Cy Young Awards and leading Oakland to the first of what would become five straight division titles. He also pitched 312 innings with his 21-year-old arm. I guess there was no such thing as a Joba rule back then, huh?

In any event, by the mid seventies, the A’s whacky and egotistical owner, Charley Finley, had become disillusioned with free agency and modern day ballplayers so he tried to cash in by selling the most valuable members of his team’s very loaded roster. Blue was one of those players. On June 15, 1976, Finley struck a deal with a guy who would succeed Charley O as baseball’s most whacky and egotistical owner, the one and only George Steinbrenner, to sell Blue to the Yankees. Three days later, MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided the deal ruling that it was detrimental to the league’s competitive balance. Blue went onto pitch seventeen seasons in the big leagues and win 209 games. He also developed a cocaine addiction and spent time in prison.

There was also an official Yankee born on July 28th who made a sensational final out catch to help the Yankees capture their first-ever Pennant.