Next Saturday marks a big anniversary. Well, make that two – because July 20th is the 50th anniversary of Vida Blue’s Major League debut, when he pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Oakland A’s giving up 6 hits and 5 runs (3 earned). The following day, the New York Times barely mentioned Blue’s inauspicious first outing in its summary of the Angels and A’s doubleheader: “In the first game Aurelio Rodriguez and Jim Spencer greeted the major league debut of southpaw picture, Vida Blue, with Homers.” [“A’s Top Angels, 9-6 after 7-3 Defeat: Jackson Clouts 37th Homer – Bando Also Connects,” The New York Times, July 21, 1969, p. 44]
Of course, the less than memorable event may have been overshadowed by news of the Apollo 11 moon landing on the same day, which got more space in the sport section than did Blue:
Baseball paid tribute to America’s astronauts yesterday by halting play at three ball parks when the lunar module, Eagle, touched down on the moon. In Philadelphia, the second game of a double-header between the Phillies and the Chicago Cubs was stopped for five minutes in the third inning and players from both teams lined up along the foul lines. There was a moment of silent prayer for continued success of the mission and a recording was played of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America.” The lunar landing was also observed at Montreal’s Jarry Park, where the Expos played the New York Mets, and at Atlanta Stadium, where the Braves played the San Diego Padres.” [“Three Baseball Parks Salute the Touchdown,” New York Times, July 21, 1960, p. 43.]
According to the Society of American Baseball Research, Blue started three more games for the A’s in 1969 and then spent the rest of the season in the bullpen. The following season he started for the triple-Iowa Oaks before being called up to the A’s in September. Blue would go on to pitch in the majors for an additional 15 years until his retirement in 1986. Over his MLB career, he pitched in 502 games, starting 473 times. He won 209 games, lost 161, and saved 2. His career ERA was 3.27.