"Some of the things the papers said Vida said I know he didn't say," says Clyde Washington. Blue's high-school baseball coach. "I read one article in which he cursed. I never heard Vida curse. This town is no Utopia, but we're getting more respect, we got something working that keeps animosity from spreading. Things are being worked on by both sides—and you know I think Vida Blue has done more to bring that about than anything. A white man stood in the post office the other day and waited there, while I did everything I had to do, waited until I got completely through to talk to me about Vida."
"I felt that Vida Blue Day made him very proud," says Mrs. Blue, and Vida agrees that it did. Mansfield was mollified later, and local suspicions about non-Southern media were confirmed when a Shreveport columnist called Blue in Oakland for an interview, which Vida summed up by saying, "Tell everybody in Mansfield I said hello and I love them all."
"Blue was one of those quarterbacks who live dangerously," says Coach Baldwin. "Most of the time he wouldn't see the touchdown because he'd be flat on his back. When he first came along and I saw how he could throw and I heard he was a Henderson [Mrs. Blue's maiden name was Henderson, and her brother was a noted left-handed quarterback at Grambling], I went out on the campus looking for somebody who could catch the ball. I found Jesse Hudson, who is a minor league pitcher now in the Mets' chain. Jesse said he wasn't going to carry any football and he wasn't going to tackle anybody, but he could catch any pass Vida could throw within six feet of him. He could, too. He caught 17 touchdown passes Vida's senior year.
"Vida played defense, too, and he also proved to be our best runner. I remember when we played Booker T. Washington in Shreveport. They were always our chief obstacle. We were ahead 13-0 at the half and it started raining cats and dogs. So Vida ran the ball the whole second half—every play we had the ball except when we punted, he ran. He wouldn't throw it or hand it off. He could take a beating. They'd get up saying, 'We know we killed Blue,' but he'd get right back up and run again. We won 13-0."
"That was the night Mr. Blue passed," says Mrs. Blue. "He'd had a heart attack and been sick about six months. Junior didn't want to go to the game, he said he'd stay with me. But I told him, 'You can't hurt your father if you go and you can't help him if you stay, so you go on and play ball.' "
"I love contact," says Vida. "And I only got hurt twice. Once I got my arm stepped on." Your what? "My right arm. And once I got a back strain."
In baseball, Blue and Hudson were equally dazzling lefthanders, but Blue probably threw a little harder. He struck out 21 men in one seven-inning game and pitched a no-hitter—but lost the game. "Vida's problem was somebody to catch him," says Washington. "There were a lot of passed balls. A dropped third strike and a man would get on and steal second, steal third and come home on a passed ball."
"Vida was never any problem about coming to school," says Baldwin. "He would always come finally. He'd be late, but that was because he was always waiting for his catcher, P. G. Hudson. His name was Willis Hudson, but they called him P.G. for Powerglide, because he was kinda slow. There were a lot of Hudsons. P.G.'s brother-Little Ol' Hudson is still around. After P.G., Vida had Elijah Williams Jr. for a catcher. They called him 'Crow.' "
Baldwin tried to get Vida to go out for the basketball team, but Vida says with no pretension to modesty that "it would've just been all that much more pressure, with all those basketball recruiters around, too. I would have run track if I was going to play a third sport. I've never been timed, but I think I could do the 100 in...9.8."
"Vida is a student of anything he goes into," says Baldwin. "We went into this 'run and shoot' offense in football—he took the book home with him, he digested that book and he came back to my office and we spent hours and hours, and I'm sure we could help the man that wrote that book now."