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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Oscar Gamble Passes Away

Oscar Gamble, a lefty-swinging hitter popularly known for the large Afro hairstyle he wore in the 1970s, died Wednesday at age 68.

His death was confirmed by Andrew Levy, Gamble’s agent. The cause of death was not reported.

Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: January 31, 2018 at 11:15 AM | 61 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cubs, deaths, hair policies, indians, padres, phillies, rangers, trim those sideburns mattingly, white sox, yankees

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   1. SoSH U at work Posted: January 31, 2018 at 12:45 PM (#5616509)
Uggh. That sucks.

Yankees Take Gamble On Oscar remains my all-time great baseball cards.

RIP Oscar.
   2. JC in DC Posted: January 31, 2018 at 12:55 PM (#5616520)
Loved that guy. Good hitter.
   3. Joe Bivens is NOT a clueless numpty Posted: January 31, 2018 at 01:02 PM (#5616526)
Massive Afro. Kinda like rLr's.
   4. Steve Treder Posted: January 31, 2018 at 01:02 PM (#5616527)
Some of the very greatest Strat-o-Matic cards. And the single very greatest Fro.
   5. dlf Posted: January 31, 2018 at 01:04 PM (#5616529)
Fun player and a really good guy when I got to meet him years after his playing days.
   6. Swoboda is freedom Posted: January 31, 2018 at 01:34 PM (#5616544)
I looked him up, but didn't realize how few games he got in. Was he limited by injuries, or by a bad glove, or couldn't hit lefties?
   7. GGC Posted: January 31, 2018 at 01:38 PM (#5616546)
Without looking it up, I think the Yankees had a four OF rotation back in the day and Gamble sat against lefties.
   8. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: January 31, 2018 at 01:45 PM (#5616551)
He could not hit lefties, and was rarely tried. Only 86 career starts vs LHP vs 1121 against a RHP.
   9. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 31, 2018 at 01:50 PM (#5616552)
If they're having an open casket at his funeral, I hope they have the decency to first slip a Jumbo Size Afro wig on him. Give the man a bit of respect.
   10. dlf Posted: January 31, 2018 at 02:03 PM (#5616563)
With the eleventy-two dozen arms in today's bullpen, there isn't room left on the roster for platoon position players anymore, but Gamble played at the height of platooning when there were plenty with many teams having a Lowenstein / Roenicke or Iorg / Mulliniks or Easler / Lacy or, specific to this thread, Gamble / Pinella.
   11. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 31, 2018 at 02:15 PM (#5616575)
RIP Oscar. My hair is at half-mast.
   12. Swoboda is freedom Posted: January 31, 2018 at 02:17 PM (#5616577)
If they're having an open casket at his funeral, I hope they have the decency to first slip a Jumbo Size Afro wig on him. Give the man a bit of respect.

As long as they don't put him in one of those late 70s era White Sox jersey/cap. That would be disrespectful.
   13. GGC Posted: January 31, 2018 at 02:26 PM (#5616589)
The Bosox didn't platoon back then, AFAICT, but they had an OF/1B bench in 1975 of Cecil Cooper, Bernie Carbo, Juan Beniquez, and Rick Miller. Tony Conigliaro was supposed to DH but he retired. This gave Cooper a shot to get more playing time, IIRC.
   14. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 31, 2018 at 02:33 PM (#5616600)
As long as they don't put him in one of those late 70s era White Sox jersey/cap. That would be disrespectful.

I doubt Chris Sale is going to be at the funeral.
   15. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 31, 2018 at 02:44 PM (#5616612)
A better hitter overall (127 OPS+), and with the Yankees (141) than I remembered, although, as noted above, limited by platooning & injuries, while mostly missing out on the glory years, leading to many only remembering him for his truly massive Afro. Being overshadowed by your hair is an uncommon fate.
   16. SoSH U at work Posted: January 31, 2018 at 02:48 PM (#5616619)
Being overshadowed by your hair is an uncommon fate.


A Flock of Gambles.
   17. salvomania Posted: January 31, 2018 at 02:53 PM (#5616626)
I looked up his career splits, and he actually hit lefties OK, just had no power.

Career .265/.356/.454 overall, with .266/.360/.468 vs RHP and .263/.334/.371 vs. LHP.

That .705 career OPS vs LHP seems pretty decent for the era, probably around a 100 OPS+. My guess is that his teams simply had superior platoon options rather than Gamble being terrible vs. LHP.
   18. Bigotis49 Posted: January 31, 2018 at 03:09 PM (#5616647)
When I was very young he was my favorite player. When I was older and understood player value more I was very happy to look back and see that he was as good a hitter as I thought he was as a seven-year old. RIP Oscar.
   19. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: January 31, 2018 at 03:12 PM (#5616649)
Awww, man -- a local guy. I remember seeing a little sign at the batting cages in the park a few miles from me, offering his instructional services.
   20. catseyepub Posted: January 31, 2018 at 03:18 PM (#5616651)
This stinks, remember watching Oscar steaming round the bases, losing his helmet from his afro during this week in baseball.
Great porch side hitter for the Yankees.Loved how his body just hunched over the plate.
   21. dlf Posted: January 31, 2018 at 03:18 PM (#5616652)
#19 - Gamble used to have his own little facility in, I think, Wetumpka, where he provided private instruction to a bunch of high level folks including at least one who made the majors - Marlon Anderson, another local guy.
   22. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: January 31, 2018 at 03:29 PM (#5616659)

I was told a story moments ago from a friend (White Sox fan) who remembers this Sox Supporters banner in LF at Comiskey after Gamble was traded for Ritchie Zisk, and the Sox signed Bobby Bonds.

WE TOOK A GAMBLE TO GET RICH, BUT NOW WE'RE PUTTING OUR MONEY IN BONDS
   23. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 31, 2018 at 03:33 PM (#5616664)
Leave Don Money out of this!
   24. Walt Davis Posted: January 31, 2018 at 03:38 PM (#5616670)
RIP Oscar. A very fun player. The story back in the day is that the Cubs messed him up -- he was a CF then so, as a CF, he should be a speedy singles hitter. And the Phils carried this on. When he got to Cleveland, they were either very smart or didn't care (early 70s Indians it was hard to tell) and let him cut it loose. A 95 career ISO 19-22, he put up a 195 ISO in his first year in Cleveland.

I guess you had to be there but Gamble/Zisk were a huge phenomenon for the 77 White Sox. And I see in an excellent trade for the White Sox (and a terrible one for the Red Sox), they got one year of Gamble and all of Lamarr Hoyt for Bucky F Dent. Later he was involved in a trade in which both teams had PTBNLs which seems weird.

Now, pardon the interruption for geekville but ... 86 career starts vs LHP vs 1121 against a RHP. ... where do you find that?

#17 ... as noted, that's in a small sample and, given the way he was used, probably came mostly against lower-quality lefties or during garbage time.
   25. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: January 31, 2018 at 03:39 PM (#5616674)
He was one of the few joys of the dreadful '70-'72 Phillies. He was fun to watch, even though he wasn't very good yet. In an outfield populated with the likes of Roger Freed, Joe Lis and Ron Stone, at least he gave them a little flash, along with Willie Montanez. Unfortunately he became good at age 23, right after the Phils traded him. Then again they traded the remnants of Johnny Callison to get him and got Del Unser in return for him, so they did alright in churning the roster.

RIP.

   26. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: January 31, 2018 at 03:43 PM (#5616686)
He was one of the few joys of the dreadful '70-'72 Phillies. He was fun to watch, even though he wasn't very good yet. In an outfield populated with the likes of Roger Freed, Joe Lis and Ron Stone, at least he gave them a little flash, along with Willie Montanez.


For some reason, as a kid in Arkansas I glommed onto those Phils (residual memories of the Travs' incarnation as a Phillies AAA franchise in the PCL?) as one of my favorite teams, along I guess with the Twins, Royals & Expos. Montanez was a particular fave. Also, a few years before he became quite good, Bill Robinson. And Barry Lersch!
   27. Sweatpants Posted: January 31, 2018 at 03:44 PM (#5616687)
Now, pardon the interruption for geekville but ... 86 career starts vs LHP vs 1121 against a RHP. ... where do you find that?
On B-R's splits page, it's under platoon splits. The vs LH starter and vs RH starter categories list games started (GS).
   28. Batman Posted: January 31, 2018 at 03:52 PM (#5616700)
The White Sox later traded LaMarr Hoyt for Ozzie Guillen. Guillen probably wouldn't have been hired as manager if he hadn't had that early Sox connection, so Oscar Gamble (along with Hoyt, Dent, and Robert Polinsky) should have gotten a 2005 World Series ring.
   29. -- Posted: January 31, 2018 at 04:47 PM (#5616768)
Oscar was kind of a cult hero, only the cult was pretty much everyone who knew anything about baseball. Does anyone not like the guy?

RIP.
   30. DanG Posted: January 31, 2018 at 04:51 PM (#5616775)
Players with exactly 200 career HR:

Oscar Gamble
Bill Freehan
Don Mincher
Josh Hamilton
Adam Lind
   31. salvomania Posted: January 31, 2018 at 05:18 PM (#5616801)
I was told a story moments ago from a friend (White Sox fan) who remembers this Sox Supporters banner in LF at Comiskey after Gamble was traded for Ritchie Zisk,


Gamble wasn't traded for Zisk---they were teammates, both traded to the White Sox as rentals for 1977 in their final year before free agency. Zisk signed after the season with the Rangers, Gamble with the Padres.

But I can see some combo of Gamble and Zisk, on one side as the departed on a banner, with Bonds on the other as the new arrival (he was acquired in a December 1977 trade for Brian Downing).
   32. winnipegwhip Posted: January 31, 2018 at 05:20 PM (#5616803)
Leave Don Money out of this!


I will prefer Randy Moss' choice "Straight Dave and Norm Cash homeys."

And you can take that to Ernie Banks!!
   33. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: January 31, 2018 at 05:41 PM (#5616817)
I know the 'fro has been discussed above and it was epic. However I always thought the mid-70's 'fro winner would always come down to Gamble and Dr. J. That cat had a 'fro that was was worthy of anything Hendrix was sporting in the late 60's.

As a 53 year old guy who's pretty much sporting "the Peter Garrett look", big hair is most appreciated.

   34. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 31, 2018 at 05:46 PM (#5616821)
As a 53 year old guy who's pretty much sporting "the Peter Garrett look",

You're an 8-foot-tall, 130-pound albino?
   35. jeffy Posted: January 31, 2018 at 06:18 PM (#5616833)
The only pro athlete who could challenge Oscar's great Afro was his contemporary, Darnell Hillman, a 6'9" jumping jack forward who played for nine years in the ABA and NBA.
   36. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: January 31, 2018 at 06:32 PM (#5616845)
Didn't Buck O'Neil discover him when he was a scout?

From Poz's book on O'Neil, I think the story was he found him out in some really remote place. O'Neil found better players (Billy Williams, for instance), but Gamble is the signing that most satisfied him, given how weird a place he came across him.
   37. tfbg9 Posted: January 31, 2018 at 07:03 PM (#5616855)
Artis Gilmore had a good 'fro.

A few years back, Bill James wrote an online piece about the best bench players in history. IIRC, among the top 5 were Oscar, Matt Stairs, and a late-career Duke Snider.

RIP
   38. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: January 31, 2018 at 07:12 PM (#5616857)
The only pro athlete who could challenge Oscar's great Afro was his contemporary, Darnell Hillman, a 6'9" jumping jack forward who played for nine years in the ABA and NBA.


Hillman's was voted the league's best ever, & with good reason, at the ABA 30-year reunion in Indianapolis in 8/97. (Yes, I went. Because of course I did.) By then, of course, his hair was as short as anyone's, though at least IIRC he wasn't bald. I paid for multiple autographed copies of an 8x10 of him in his Afrolicious prime to give to friends in the Little Rock newsroom.

As a 53 year old guy who's pretty much sporting "the Peter Garrett look", big hair is most appreciated.


Earlier today I caught myself briefly entertaining the idea of getting a haircut (though it's been only 4 months), but you have given me the courage to carry on (& also I'm wondering if the barber I use across from the base isn't sick again; he had surgery about a year ago). Though even at my best (worst?) I only ever qualified for the Robert Smith Division, not the Darnell Hillman Division (to my deep regret).
   39. -- Posted: January 31, 2018 at 07:17 PM (#5616860)
Ahh, you guys beat me to Hillman. Outstanding 'fro. I posted on a basketball board about 10 years ago under the nombre de 'net: "HillmansFro." Good times.
   40. Snowboy Posted: January 31, 2018 at 08:06 PM (#5616885)
   41. Traderdave Posted: January 31, 2018 at 08:10 PM (#5616889)
I recall on a Game of the Week broadcast the announcer said that Gamble was very annoyed when the Comiskey organist played the Oscar Mayer Weiner jingle as he stepped into the box.
   42. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 31, 2018 at 08:13 PM (#5616891)
RIP Oscar.

They don't think it be like it is, but it do.
   43. asinwreck Posted: January 31, 2018 at 08:40 PM (#5616908)
Very few teams were as fun as the South Side Hit Men of 1977. Oscar Gamble was a centerpiece of that joyful team.
   44. ajnrules Posted: January 31, 2018 at 10:09 PM (#5616960)
Didn't Buck O'Neil discover him when he was a scout?

From Poz's book on O'Neil, I think the story was he found him out in some really remote place. O'Neil found better players (Billy Williams, for instance), but Gamble is the signing that most satisfied him, given how weird a place he came across him.

That's right. Joe retold the story in an article on MLB.com earlier.

Oscar was a bit before my time, but in watching older games my biggest memory of him was when he played in Gaylord Perry's 300th game on May 6, 1982. He was hitting only .115 at the time, but he had an RBI single in that game.

RIP
   45. Rob_Wood Posted: February 01, 2018 at 12:46 AM (#5617028)
Very few teams were as fun as the South Side Hit Men of 1977. Oscar Gamble was a centerpiece of that joyful team.


For sure. Plus the Harry Caray-Jimmy Piersall broadcasting team added to the fun.
   46. Bruce Markusen Posted: February 01, 2018 at 08:23 AM (#5617052)
Oscar's hair, of course, is the first thing that comes to mind, but it obscures many other parts of his career. He was signed by Buck O'Neil and was highly regarded by Leo Durocher, who compared him to Willie Mays when Gamble joined the Cubs in 1969. There have long been rumors that the Cubs' front office traded Gamble because they didn't like his tendency to date white women. (This was allegedly the reason that the Mets didn't draft Reggie Jackson, either.) The Cubs essentially ended up giving Gamble away, sending him to the Phillies for a washed-up Johnny Callison.

With regard to the hair, some have said that Oscar was trying to make some kind of social statement, but he always said that had nothing to do with it. Gamble said that he simply grew the hair big and long as a way of standing out and making himself get noticed. Mission accomplished on that front.
   47. dlf Posted: February 01, 2018 at 08:28 AM (#5617054)
Very few teams were as fun as the South Side Hit Men of 1977. Oscar Gamble was a centerpiece of that joyful team.


The most memorable game of my childhood was one where those guys scored 12, but lost by seven. June 26, 1977. A warm summer day at the old Met in Bloomington where, among other things, a nearly 10 year old dlf sat in the upper deck and watched Rod Carew go over .400 for the first time in that magical season.
   48. eddieot Posted: February 01, 2018 at 08:56 AM (#5617065)
No 'fro love for Shake & Bake McBride?
   49. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: February 01, 2018 at 10:13 AM (#5617114)
No 'fro love for Shake & Bake McBride?


Very likely the first Trav to really make an impression on me, other than roster perennial Danny Napoleon.
   50. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: February 01, 2018 at 10:46 AM (#5617134)
The most memorable game of my childhood was one where those guys scored 12, but lost by seven. June 26, 1977.
The two teams combined for 31 runs and yet the managers only ran a total of 6 pitchers out there. Tom Johnson gave up 7 runs in relief and got the win. My how times have changed...
   51. RMc Has Bizarre Ideas to Fix Baseball Posted: February 01, 2018 at 11:55 AM (#5617207)
Oscar Gamble broke in with the Caldwell (Idaho) Cubs of the Pioneer League in 1968. (The Cubs, also known as "Magic Valley", played in the PL from 1964-71 and is the only pro sports team in the city's history.)

Caldwell was managed by George Freese, who played 17 years of pro ball (mostly in AAA, with a couple hundred at-bats with the Tigers, Pirates and Cubs) and 12 as a manager. He broke in with the Johnston Johnnies of the Mid-Atlantic League in 1948.

The Johnnies were piloted by Roy Nichols, who was only 27 in 1948 and had played 11 games for the Giants during the war. His first pro team was the 1939 Amarillo Gold Sox of the West Texas-New Mexico League.

The Sox had two managers that year, the second being Neal Rabe, who played mostly in the low minors and broke in with the Crisfield (Maryland) Crabbers of the Eastern Shore League in 1927.

The Crabbers were managed by a mysterious figure named Mike Pasquella, who played only one year of pro ball. In 1919, he hit .202 for the Class B Waco Navigators...then inexplicably got trials from not one but two major league clubs in July of that year, knocking a double in his only at-bat for the Phillies on July 9, then striking out in his only time up as a St. Louis Cardinal on July 31. Presumably he went back to Waco after that, then managed in the low minors from 1926-29, then again in 1937.

Anyway. The Navigators were managed by Doc White, who pitched 13 years in the majors and won 189 games, including a MLB-leading 27 for the 1907 White Sox, a year after picking up a ring by upsetting the Cubs in the '06 World Series. (He also pitched five straight shutouts in 1904, and sent a congratulatory telegram to Don Drysdale when the latter equaled the feat 64 years later.) His first team was the Philadelphia Phillies, who in 1901 signed him right out of Georgetown University.

The 1901 Phillies were managed by Bill Shettsline, who led the Phils for five seasons (1898-1902) but never played pro ball, so we'll ignore Bill for the moment and focus on Doc's teammate, 31-year-old shortstop Monte Cross. Monte played 15 years in the majors and broke in with a team from York, Pennsylvania, of the Middle States League in 1889. (Actually, Monte played for three different clubs that year. Close enough.)

The unnamed York team included a 37-year-old infielder named John Shetzline (not to be confused with Shettsline), who played a season with the old Baltimore Orioles in 1882 but began his playing career for Philadelphia Athletic in the League Alliance, a quasi-major league outfit, in 1877. (I don't know if this is the same club that got kicked out of the NL after the 1876 season; anybody?)

Playing for and managing Athletic was a long time Philadelphian: the one and only John "Count" Sensenderfer, who joined the club when it was still amateur, back in 1866. (That's far enough back, I think.)

   52. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: February 01, 2018 at 12:09 PM (#5617236)
Caldwell was managed by George Freese, who played 17 years of pro ball (mostly in AAA, with a couple hundred at-bats with the Tigers, Pirates and Cubs) and 12 as a manager. He broke in with the Johnston Johnnies of the Mid-Atlantic League in 1948.


Older brother of the rather more accomplished Gene Freese, Wikipedia says (BB-Ref is mute on the subject). Got his autograph during a game while he was managing the Shreveport Captains (then a Brewers farm club) in probably '73. Might've been one of the 12 games the corpse of Denny McLain started for the team.
   53. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: February 01, 2018 at 12:24 PM (#5617266)

The most memorable game of my childhood was one where those guys scored 12, but lost by seven. June 26, 1977. A warm summer day at the old Met in Bloomington where, among other things, a nearly 10 year old dlf sat in the upper deck and watched Rod Carew go over .400 for the first time in that magical season.


That team had an historically bad defense, “led” by their MIs, who combined for -53 fielding runs. Both Orta and Bannister put up the 4th worst seasons at their respective positions. You would think it impossible for one team to top that, but the 2005 Rangers did, with Michael Young and Alphonso Soriano combining for -58. Both of them were 2nd worst all time.
   54. Batman Posted: February 01, 2018 at 12:24 PM (#5617268)
Playing for and managing Athletic was a long time Philadelphian: the one and only John "Count" Sensenderfer, who joined the club when it was still amateur, back in 1866. (That's far enough back, I think.)
Wikipedia says he got his nickname partly from his moustache, so, like Oscar Gamble, he's known for hair growth. Circle of life, I guess. Or Hakuna Matata.

It also says that Sensenderfer was injured and missed the 1871 championship game. His replacement in the lineup was Nate Berkenstock, the earliest-born pro baseball player (bb-ref says he's the second earliest), so that takes it all the way back.
   55. RMc Has Bizarre Ideas to Fix Baseball Posted: February 01, 2018 at 01:54 PM (#5617393)
It also says that Sensenderfer was injured and missed the 1871 championship game. His replacement in the lineup was Nate Berkenstock

I actually wrote that Wiki article. I didn't mention Berkenstock in my post because the damn thing was running too long anyway.

the corpse of Denny McLain

Denny didn't do too badly for the Captains: 6-4 with a 102 ERA+. And he was only 29, meaning a comeback wasn't impossible...if he hadn't been, you know, Denny McLain.
   56. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: February 01, 2018 at 02:38 PM (#5617433)
the corpse of Denny McLain

Denny didn't do too badly for the Captains: 6-4 with a 102 ERA+. And he was only 29, meaning a comeback wasn't impossible...if he hadn't been, you know, Denny McLain.


I think the game my friend's dad drove us to was McLain's first outing. I do not remember it going very well.

   57. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: February 01, 2018 at 02:41 PM (#5617438)
Not to go all OTP here, as the guy is something of a lightning rod, but it must be noted that Colin Kaepernick has the best Afro that I've seen in sports in a long, long time -- at least since the glory days of Josh Childress. Of course, given how little attention I pay to the NBA in particular, I might well have missed a few gems. (Ben Wallace seems to have been a bit of a wannabe.)
   58. Rennie's Tenet Posted: February 01, 2018 at 07:01 PM (#5617604)
Jesse Jefferson had a good afro. Dwight Jones of the NBA. Stew Johnson of the ABA. Wes Unseld.
   59. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: February 01, 2018 at 07:22 PM (#5617610)
Linc Hayes
   60. Howie Menckel Posted: February 01, 2018 at 07:24 PM (#5617611)
Art Garfunkel
   61. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 01, 2018 at 08:09 PM (#5617629)
Art Garfunkel

Yeah, but that was at least 50% toupee by about the mid-'70s.

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