"George!" he goes on. "I'm not drinking no red soda pop. Where you think I'm from, Louisiana?"
George takes back the strawberry drink he has brought and returns with a fruit punch, which Blue downs in two gurgles. He smiles slyly and then yells, "I got to Bogart me another soda water. Hey George, you my man...."
In a few minutes Blue is at quarterback and the clubhouse boys are at center and the other backfield positions, and they are briskly running off plays.
Blue threw 35 touchdown passes in his senior year at DeSoto, the black high school in Mansfield, La. He credits his football background with helping him to learn how to adjust in baseball.
"Football is 40% adjusting—offense to defense, defense to offense," he says. His old football coach says that when Blue was rolling out to his right and was pressed, he would adjust by passing with his right hand. "When he'd get in a tight," says Coach Clarence Baldwin, "he'd throw with his right. And just as accurately. As long as it wasn't one of those 55- to 60-yarders."
Blue can hum a baseball right-handed too, but not as a pitcher. He learned to pitch, he says, when such old hands as his minor league teammate at Iowa, Juan Pizarro, and A's Pitching Coach Bill Posedel taught him his present delivery, which, like a golf swing, entails bearing several things in mind. "I have to stay back, stay closed up, stride correctly, think about my release point. When I'm really humming it, I'm doing all those things right."
Blue's windup—with his big front leg hunched way up and bent at the knee and his pitching arm whipping around in the background—is not classical, like that of Koufax, but it is impressive. Sometimes it suggests a mustachioed old-time pitcher in a cartoon, or a Norman Rockwell sandlotter—all pretzeled up preparing to snap off a hot one. Then the leg thrusts forward, there is a slight unsettling delay, and the arm swoops around smoothly, without a lot of joint popping, and abruptly produces either a good fast curve, a hopping fastball, a sinking fastball, a fastball that breaks in, a fastball that breaks out or, rarely, a straight change of pace. "He doesn't mess with the slider," says A's Manager Dick Williams. "The slider burns up elbows."
Many pitchers, like many osteopaths, talk about how punishing and unnatural an arm function throwing a baseball is. "It doesn't hurt my arm to throw hard," says Blue. "Everything's fluid, real easy. I guess my body's real flexible."
"You like to hit against a guy who grunts out there," says Baltimore's Dave Johnson, "because then you know it's coming hard. But Vida has a nice easy delivery. I think his arm will hold up. He looks like he has a good foundation to pitch from—he's in real good shape from the waist down."
Blue's fastball moves so much that it often looks like a slider, and indeed he sometimes "cuts" the fastball a bit to make it drop. Against Washington in his 14th win, with less than optimum stuff (lately he tends to conserve his best heat for crucial pitches), he faced 36 batters and only eight of them managed to pull the ball, five in the last three innings when he was coasting.