Oscar Gamble

Gamble was the Cubs’ best prospect when he was traded to Philadelphia after the 1969 season with Dick Selma for Johnny Callison. His low batting average prevented him from winning a job in his three years with the Phillies, despite flashes of power. He had the last hit and the last RBI in Philadelphia’s Connie Mack Stadium. Only after his trade to Cleveland for 1973 did the lefthanded batter finally blossom. As a platoon DH and occasional outfielder, he hit 20 HR in 390 at-bats.

After two more solid seasons, Gamble went to the Yankees for Pat Dobson in December 1975. He played right field, and helped New York to its first AL pennant in 12 years with 17 HR and 57 RBI in 340 at-bats. His wife, Juanita, sang the national anthem at Yankee Stadium several times that season, including once before a playoff game. However, the Yankee front office had her in tears when they forced Oscar to cut off his luxuriant Afro, the largest in baseball. It added more than four inches to his height and sometimes popped his batting helmet off.

Traded before the start of 1977 with LaMarr Hoyt, then a minor leaguer, and $200,000 for the White Sox’ Bucky Dent, Gamble had his best season. He hit .297 with career highs of 31 HR, 83 RBI, 75 runs, and 22 doubles (in 408 at-bats), and the White Sox contended, improving to 90-72 from 64-97 the previous season. He opted for free agency after the season and signed a lucrative deal with San Diego. Slowed by minor injuries, he hit only seven HR and was traded to Texas after the season. He returned to the Yankees in August 1979 in a deal that also sent Mickey Rivers to the Rangers. Gamble was hitting .335 at the time of the trade, then caught fire. He hit .389 in his two months with the Yankees and finished with a career-high .358 mark that was by far the best in the league. But Gamble’s 274 at-bats weren’t close to qualifying him for the batting title. He spent the next five years in New York, finally accepting his career-long platoon role, and providing vital lefthanded power. He helped the Yankees to their last two titles as they won their division in 1980 and took the AL pennant in the 1981 strike season. In that year’s Eastern Division playoff, Gamble’s two-run homer in the opener sparked New York to a 5-3 victory, and he also homered in the 7-3 clincher over Milwaukee. He hit .556 for the series, platooning with Lou Piniella at DH. In the LCS, he had only one hit, but walked five times in 11 plate appearances and scored the second run, after walking, of New York’s 3-1 victory in the opener. Gamble finished with a return to the White Sox in 1985.