Womack: Vida Blue and the unexpectedly tight 1971 AL Cy Young race
From SABR member Graham Womack at The National Pastime Museum on November 13, 2017:
On July 25, 1971, Vida Blue was on top of baseball.
Three days shy of his 22nd birthday, the Oakland Athletics’ ace had electrified the Majors by going 18–3 with a 1.41 ERA to this point in the season. He would win that day, on the road against the Detroit Tigers, dropping his ERA to 1.37 and giving him a chance to become just the second pitcher since 1935 to win at least 30 games in a season.
By this point, Blue was already a national phenomenon. He’d been on the cover of Sports Illustrated in late May and would be on the cover of Time magazine by the end of August. When the A’s would visit the White House on August 17, Richard Nixon would tell Blue, “I’ll give you a challenge. Every year until you reach 30, you’ve got to win that many that season, as your age.”
But quietly, something else happened on July 25 that foretold of a shift in the season. In the fourth inning, a pitch from Detroit starter Bill Denehy struck Blue on the foot. Two innings later, with Blue carrying a one-hitter, A’s Manager Dick Williams removed him from the game as a precautionary measure.
“I’m okay,” Blue said afterward. “We had a big lead and it was hot and humid so the manager wanted to give me some rest.”
This page was last updated November 13, 2017 at 12:28 pm MST.