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New York Yankees: Remembering the Days of Oscar Gamble

NEW YORK - JULY 19:  Former New York Yankee Oscar Gamble is introduced during the teams 63rd Old Timers Day before the game against the Detroit Tigers on July 19, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Bill FordCorrespondent IIIFebruary 13, 2012

When I was a kid growing up in the Bronx, I watched the Yankees on television religiously. Rarely did I miss a game if it was televised.

Writing this makes me feel old, but I remember way back when the bleacher seats cost between one and five dollars a ticket.

Just like today, back then there were certain players that the fans remembered and loved. Many of the players weren't that great, but we remember them to this day. They stand out in our minds.

Oscar Gamble is one of those players who's always stood out in my mind. Everyone my age remembers the huge Afro sticking out from underneath his batting helmet and his cap.

Gamble was discovered by Buck O'Neil playing for a semi-professional baseball league. The Chicago Cubs drafted him in the 16th round.

He had a great sense of humor, and always seemed to enjoy the attention that he received from the fans and sportswriters. He never ducked away from them or avoided them.

Gamble was never known as a superstar, but was a strong left-handed hitter. He was good, but not great. That didn't matter to fans and sportswriters. His personality stood out.

Over 17 seasons in MLB, he hit 200 home runs, 666 RBI and had a .265 batting average. He was a solid hitter and had a few standout seasons, such as his 1979  season when he hit .358.

In 1976 while with the Yankees, George Steinbrenner forced Gamble to trim his Afro. Oscar didn't want to because he had a commercial deal lined up for Afro Sheen, but Steinbrenner wouldn't allow him to have a uniform until his hair was cut.

 

Steinbrenner had a car waiting to take him to a barber before spring training. When he got back to the ballpark, Steinbrenner agreed to pay him what Afro Sheen would have paid him for the commercial.

Flash forward in time 35 years, and there I was at a minor league baseball fundraising dinner for a children's hospital.

Many current, retired and former MLB players, as well as minor league prospects, were there to sign autographs.

As I walked around meeting them, shaking their hands and getting baseballs signed, there he was, except no Afro.

Oscar Gamble, a guy that I saw play in person 35 years ago, stood right in front of me, shook my hand and signed a baseball.

In that moment, I felt like a kid in the 1970s again.

He smiled and laughed the entire time that he was there. He was a big hit, just like he was back in his old playing days.

Time really does fly by too fast. Soak in and absorb every moment.

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