Oscar Gamble

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Oscar Gamble
Gamble in 1981
Outfielder / Designated hitter
Born: (1949-12-20)December 20, 1949
Ramer, Alabama, U.S.
Died: January 31, 2018(2018-01-31) (aged 68)
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Batted: Left
Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 27, 1969, for the Chicago Cubs
Last MLB appearance
August 8, 1985, for the Chicago White Sox
MLB statistics
Batting average.265
Home runs200
Runs batted in666

Oscar Charles Gamble (December 20, 1949 – January 31, 2018) was an American professional baseball outfielder and designated hitter who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for 17 seasons from 1969 to 1985 for seven teams: the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees (on two occasions, each); as well as the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, and Texas Rangers.

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.[1]


Gamble was born in Ramer, Alabama, to Sam Gamble, a sharecropper and Mamie Scott, a homemaker.[2] He attended George Washington Carver High School (Montgomery, Alabama) and 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.[3]

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.[4]

He was traded along with Roger Freed by the Phillies to the Indians for Del Unser and minor league third baseman Terry Wedgewood on December 1, 1972.[5]

Gamble in 1978

Nicknamed the Big O by Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto, Gamble was a great baseball player given the amount of time he was allowed to play in the game. Despite the limited playing time, he still hit 200 career home runs in just over 4,500 major league at bats, earning him the moniker "Ratio Man." Oscar's career peaked in 1977 with the White Sox, when he hit 31 home runs and tallied 83 RBI. That year, Gamble hit a home run per 13.2 at-bats, the best ratio in the league. 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.)[4]

Unlike some players who failed to cope with the New York media, Oscar thrived on it, and was always a favorite with sportswriters.[6] 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.[7] His 10th-inning single scored Tim McCarver with the run that gave the Phillies the 2–1 win in the stadium's final game.[4] The game 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." The team won its first American League pennant in 12 seasons, hitting 17 home runs and 57 RBI.[4] 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 American League East division title in 1980 and a World Series appearance in 1981.[8]

Gamble was nearly dealt along with Bob Watson and Mike Morgan from the Yankees back to the Texas Rangers for Al Oliver prior to the 1982 regular season, but he squashed the transaction because his contract had a list of eight teams to which he can be traded which did not include the Rangers.[9]

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.[4] Gamble also finished with more career walks (610) than strikeouts (546).[10] 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.

Personal life[edit]

Gamble lived in Little Ferry, New Jersey, while playing with the Yankees.[11] Baseball-Reference.com ranks Gamble's mustache as the fifth-best in history.[12]

After retirement from baseball, Gamble returned to Alabama and lived in Montgomery where he was a player agent for several years. He was involved in youth baseball and later in his life he often came back to New York to give free baseball clinics for the St. Kevin Youth Guild in Queens, New York. He was married to his first wife Juanita while playing for the Yankees and, after retirement and divorce, he married his second wife, Lovell Woods Gamble.[2] His son, Sean, was a player in the Philadelphia Phillies organization,[13] while another son, Shane,[2] played in junior college.[14] He also has three daughters, Sheena Maureen, Kalani Lee, and Kylah Lee.[2]

Gamble was charged with rape and assault in Baltimore in 1974 but the charges against him were dismissed in 1975 at the request of his accuser. According to the prosecution, the accuser "emphatically desire[d] that the case be dismissed as soon as possible."[15]

He opened up a discotheque known as "Oscar Gamble's Players Club'" in Montgomery; baseball writer Dan Epstein called it a "hip" place.[1]


Gamble died of cancer in his jaw (known as ameloblastic carcinoma)[2] on January 31, 2018, at the age of 68.[16][17]


  1. ^ a b Epstein, Dan (June 5, 2012). Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s. Macmillan. p. 182. ISBN 9781250007247.
  2. ^ a b c d e Sandomir, Richard (January 31, 2018). "Oscar Gamble, Power Hitter With Prodigious Hair, Dies at 68". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Joe Posnanski, The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip through Buck O'Neil's America, pp. 58-60.
  4. ^ a b c d e Newville, Todd. "Dream Weaver! - Oscar Gamble Parlayed His Dream Into A Successful 17-Year Major League Career". baseballtoddsdugout.com. Archived from the original on August 13, 2014. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  5. ^ Durso, Joseph. "A's Send Epstein to Rangers; Scheinblum, Nelson to Reds," The New York Times, Saturday, December 2, 1972. Retrieved April 12, 2020
  6. ^ ed. by David Pietrusza .... (2000), Baseball : the biographical encyclopedia, Kingston, NY: Total/Sports Illustrated, p. 392, ISBN 1-892129-34-5 {{citation}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  7. ^ "Montreal Expos at Philadelphia Phillies Box Score, October 1, 1970". Baseball Reference. Retrieved February 1, 2018.
  8. ^ "1981 World Series Los Angeles Dodgers over New York Yankees". Baseball Reference. Retrieved February 1, 2018.
  9. ^ Chass, Murray. "Gamble Bars Deal; Expos Get Oliver," The New York Times, Thursday, April 1, 1982, 1982. Retrieved October 31, 2020
  10. ^ "Oscar Gamble Stats". Baseball Reference. Retrieved February 1, 2018.
  11. ^ 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."
  12. ^ "Keith Hernandez Mustache". Baseball-Reference.com. September 20, 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  13. ^ "Sean Gamble Minor & Independent Leagues Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  14. ^ "Where are they now? Oscar Gamble's life has taken him to-and-'fro".
  15. ^ "Oscar Gamble Cleared Of Rape Charge". The Times Recorder. UPI. April 26, 1975. p. 12. Retrieved April 18, 2023.
  16. ^ Dittmeier, Bob (January 31, 2018). "Oscar Gamble dies". MLB.com. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  17. ^ Miller, Joshua Rhett (January 31, 2018). "'Big hair, big heart': Yankees slugger Oscar Gamble dead at 68". New York Post. Retrieved January 31, 2018.

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