Oscar Gamble hit 200 home runs over 17 highly productive MLB seasons, but his lasting legacy and claim to fame is more cultural than athletic. The lethal lefty hitter, also famous for his unorthodox batting stance, rocked a huge Afro which protruded out of both sides of his baseball cap during a period in American history when the Afro, like the raised fist, was a symbol of Black power, Black resistance to oppression and most significantly Black pride. Gamble finished his career with a .265 batting average and 666 RBI while playing for seven big league teams.
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Gamble passed away on Wednesday according to his second wife, Lovell Woods Gamble, who said he was diagnosed with a benign tumor, ameloblastoma, about nine years ago. It became ameloblastic carcinoma in 2016 and he had the first of several operations that August.
He most notably spent seven seasons with the New York Yankees and also played for the Cleveland Indians.
The #HOF remembers former power-hitting outfielder Oscar Gamble, who passed away on Wednesday. (:Doug McWilliams)
He even had an endorsement deal with the legendary black hair care product Afro Sheen, but had to trim his hair to comply with owner George Steinbrenner’s grooming policy when he joined the Yankees for the 1976 season. He rejoined the Yankees later in his career and played with Don Mattingly among others.
“I will not only remember Oscar for his abilities on the field, but also for his great sense of humor and the way he treated me as a young player,” Mattingly, the former MLB great and current Miami Marlins manager said in a text message.
Gamble had some clutch moments in New York. His biggest postseason hits for the Yankees were a pair of tying home runs off Milwaukee’s Moose Haas in Games 1 and 5 of the 1981 AL Division Series.
10/11/81: Oscar Gamble follows Reggie Jackson’s home run with a solo shot to give the Yankees their first lead of the night in Game 5 Check out http://m.mlb.com/video for our full archive of videos, and subscribe on YouTube for the best, exclusive MLB content: http://youtube.com/MLB About MLB.com: Commissioner Allan H.
Nicknamed the Big O by Yankees legendary announcer Phil Rizzuto, Gambles peak season was in 1977 with the White Sox, when he hit 31 home runs and collected 83 RBI.
His pro career was solid, but his personality, swag, character and unmistakably and unapologetically black hairstyle secure his special place in MLB history.