Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s was idyllic. We often are reminded of this via the world of sports. In fact, the first baseball game we ever attended was this one: Game 5 of the 1974 World Series. We went with our maternal grandparents—our grandfather actually had played semi-pro ball in the city with the DiMaggio brothers before marrying our grandmother in 1934—who were the biggest sports fans in our family. But that wasn’t it, luckily.
Our dad, through various experiences of his own, knew Oakland Raiders head coaches John Madden and Tom Flores, as well as Golden State Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli. Heck, he even had lunch once with Howard Cosell—none of our elementary-school friends believed us, though. No selfies to prove it now, either, but that’s the way it goes. Our extended family members on our dad’s side also had season tickets to both the San Francisco Giants and 49ers.
We had it made as kids, really, when it came to sports … yes, it was a privileged childhood any way you look at it. No surprise we ended up playing three sports in college, coaching in college afterward, and eventually covering sports for professional publications while pursuing our academic ends as well. We love(d) sports, but even more, we love(d) sports as they were—or as we perceived them to be in the 1970s. Hence, our need to explore sports history here. Endless love, really.
That being said, our first favorite player in any sport was Oakland A’s pitcher Vida Blue. We got to analyze different parts of his career here (see 1971, 1976, and 1978 MLB awards explorations), and that was fun. But he passed this weekend, and it made us realize how old we are now. Our formative years of sports cognition came at the altar of Oakland and San Francisco sports teams and superstars, but Vida was the first one. We can’t say why, but it just was that way.
Blue had it rough in his later years, and we had a friend in college who had grown up in Twain Harte, CA, near to where the former MLB ace had tried to retire. Even there in pastoral lands, he couldn’t find peace, sadly. We sincerely hope he has found some now, and we thank him for being one of the seeds that has helped grow the beautiful flower of our sports appreciation all these years later. Godspeed, Mr. Blue … we will miss you.