Baseball great Vida Blue to serve as Grand Marshal at Sonoma NASCAR Sprint Cup race

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When the public address announcer at Sonoma Raceway introduces the Grand Marshal for the June 22 Toyota/Save Mart 350 Sprint Cup race, the crowd is going to respond with a round of applause and a case of the “Bllluuuuuueeeeee’s.”

Longtime southpaw pitching great Vida Blue, whose long and successful tenure with both the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants was met countless times with cheers of “Blue!” will be take part in pre-race ceremonies and cap it all off by giving the “Drivers, Start Your Engines” command.

“I’m delighted to be honored by the raceway during NASCAR weekend, and I’m really looking forward to heading out to the track,” Blue said in a media release issued by the racetrack. “This will be my first time at a NASCAR race, and I know it’s going to be something special.”

Blue, who was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1995, will also be honored at a fundraiser on Friday June 20 for Speedway Children’s Charities. The event will be held Friday, June 20, at the Children’s Champion’s Grand Marshal’s Banquet at Cline Cellars in Sonoma.

Okay, now here’s something that’s going to make you feel REAL OLD: Blue retired in 1986 – more than a quarter century ago (!!) – after a 17-year career in the big leagues.

Blue’s first full season in the big leagues was with the A’s in 1971 – when he went 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA, and earned both the Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player Award. He also became the only player ever to be the starting pitcher in the league opener, the All-Star Game and the playoff opener in the same season.

He was also one of the A’s top starters when they won three straight Major League Baseball championships from 1972 through 1974. After being dealt in a “cross-bay trade,” he continued to shine for the Giants, including becoming the first pitcher to ever start the All-Star Game for both the American League (1971) and the National League (1978).

Blue’s career spanned 17 years, pitching for Oakland (1969-77), San Francisco (1978-81), the Kansas City Royals (1982-83) and then returned to San Francisco to close out his career (1985-86).

Blue is a baseball analyst for Giants telecasts on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, and is heavily involved in work with a number of charities and causes.

“Vida is one of the greatest competitors ever to take the mound in either league, but he’s also one of the most engaging personalities in the industry and I know he’s going to be a big hit with our fans at the race, regardless of their team loyalties,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager.

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Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).