||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2009)|
|Outfielder / Designated hitter|
December 20, 1949 |
|August 27, 1969 for the Chicago Cubs|
Last MLB appearance
|August 8, 1985 for the Chicago White Sox|
|Runs batted in||666|
Oscar Charles Gamble (born December 20, 1949) is a former outfielder and designated hitter in Major League Baseball. He played for 17 seasons, from 1969 to 1985, on seven different teams: the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees on two separate occasions, as well as the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, and Texas Rangers.
In his later years, Gamble is known for his afro haircut as well as for the fact that he owned a disco club called Oscar Gamble's Players Club. His quote about the Yankees' disorganization and circus-like atmosphere, "They don't think it be like it is, but it do", has also been called one of baseball's "immortal lines" by sportswriter Dan Epstein.
Born in Ramer, Alabama, Gamble was discovered playing baseball in a semi-professional league by legendary Negro League baseball player Buck O'Neil, who was working as a scout for the Chicago Cubs at the time. O'Neil convinced the Cubs to draft Gamble, which they did in the sixteenth round. Gamble played with the Caldwell Cubs of the Pioneer League in 1968 and the San Antonio Missions of the Texas League in 1969, from where he received his call-up to the Chicago Cubs late in the 1969 season.
Nicknamed the Big O by Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto, Gamble was a relatively small man, listed at 5 feet, 11 inches tall and 165 pounds. He still hit 200 career home runs in just over 9000 major league at bats. Oscar's career peaked in 1977 with the White Sox, when he hit 31 home runs and tallied 83 RBI. After an ill-fated, injury-plagued year in San Diego, he returned to the American League in 1979 to hit a career-best .358 batting average, slamming 19 home runs with the Yankees and Rangers. (He did not have enough plate appearances to qualify for the American League batting title.)
Unlike some players who failed to cope with the New York media, Oscar thrived on it, and was always a favorite with sportswriters. Gamble, whose hitting prowess was overshadowed by his famously large Afro hairdo, has the distinction of logging the last hit and RBI at Philadelphia's Connie Mack Stadium on October 1, 1970. His 10th-inning single scored Tim McCarver with the run that gave the Phillies the 2-1 win in the stadium's final game. Coincidentally, that feat was also overshadowed as unruly fans stormed the field during and after the game to claim bases, infield dirt, seats, and other various stadium items.
In 1976, Gamble helped the Yankees return to prominence as the "Bronx Bombers" won their first American League pennant in 12 seasons, hitting 17 home runs and 57 RBI. His left-handed power stroke was ideal for the renowned short right field fence at Yankee Stadium. Returning to the Yankees in 1979, he would settle into a limited role with the team, aiding the Yankees once again to an AL East division title in 1980 and a World Series appearance in 1981.
Gamble had one of the more unusual batting stances in the major leagues. He stood at the plate in a deep crouch with his back almost parallel to the ground. Gamble claimed this stance helped him see the ball better as his eyes were right above the plate and close to where the ball was pitched.
Notably, Gamble also finished with more career walks (610) than strikeouts (546). He was considered a below-average fielder, and consequently played over a third of his games as a designated hitter, but he had a good arm. He played in the 2007 Yankee Old Timers Game with many Yankee players that were honored from the 1977 championship team.
After retirement from baseball, Gamble returned to Montgomery, Alabama and was a player agent for several years. He is involved in youth baseball. One son, Sean, was a player in the Philadelphia Phillies organization and another one played in junior college.
- Epstein, Dan (June 5, 2012). Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s. Macmillan. p. 182.
- The Soul of Baseball A Road Trip through Buck O'Neil's America, Author Joe Posnanski (P. 58-60)
- Newville, Todd. "Dream Weaver! - Oscar Gamble Parlayed His Dream Into A Successful 17-Year Major League Career". http://www.baseballtoddsdugout.com. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
- ed. by David Pietrusza .... (2000), Baseball : the biographical encyclopedia, Kingston, NY: Total/Sports Illustrated, p. 392, ISBN 1-892129-34-5
- Waggoner, Walter H. "Taking License With Plates", The New York Times, October 24, 1976. Accessed June 7, 2012. "Ohio has a 'GAMBLE,' which happens to be the license on the car owned by Oscar Gamble, the New York Yankee outfielder now living in Little Ferry."
- "Where are they now? Oscar Gamble's life has taken him to-and-'fro".
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference