Blue epitomized contributions by African-Americans

Blue epitomized contributions by African-Americans

OAKLAND -- The annual celebration of Black History Month offers time for reflection and recognition of the contributions made by African-Americans, a tradition that extends to Major League Baseball.

Faces new and old have emerged from the A's Twitter account this month in celebration of black history and African-American players who have worn the green and gold: Rickey Henderson, Tony Phillips, Dave Stewart, Dave Henderson and Coco Crisp are among those to have been featured. Countless other African-American players have made their marks in Oakland, notably Vida Blue. 

The left-handed Blue, drafted by the Kansas City A's in the second round of the 1967 Draft, was a central figure of the 1970s dynasty that counted off three consecutive World Series titles from 1972-74.

Vida Blue joins Hot Stove

Blue found himself in the spotlight even before then, firing a no-hitter against the Twins in just his eighth Major League start at the age of 21. The performance set the stage for a breakout 1971 season that arguably has yet to be matched.

By season's end, Blue had a 24-8 record and 1.82 ERA with eight shutouts in his pocket, sensational numbers that made him the first American League player to win the Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player Award.

Blue, the youngest MVP winner in the 20th century, went the distance 24 times in 39 starts in that storied season, striking out 301 batters in 312 innings. In balloting, he topped teammate Sal Bando and Baltimore's Frank Robinson in the MVP voting, and Tigers hurler Mickey Lolich in the Cy Young race.

"I knew it was close between Mickey Lolich and myself," Blue said in an interview with MLB Network. "I was just a young kid from Mansfield, La., and didn't have a clue what the heck was going on, but I got the call and was very excited about it. Then of course I got the MVP, and it was just a dream come true to be the recipient of both awards."

Blue went on to be a six-time All-Star in a 17-year career that included nine seasons in Oakland, where the hard-throwing southpaw remains a celebrated figure.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.