Lest we forget: Oscar Gamble

January 31, 2018 · 0 comments

It’s unfortunate, but I’m betting the obituaries for Oscar Gamble will lead off with something noting the huge Afro he sported in his latter player days.

The 17-year veteran, who put in service with seven teams, died today at the age of 68.

In addition to having MVP hair, Gamble — who played for the Cubs, Indians, Yankees, Padres, White Sox, Rangers, and Phillies — was a pretty fair player. He finished with an even 200 home runs, a devilish 666 RBIs, and a .265/.356/.454 stroke line. His best season came with the Sox inĀ  1977 when he stroke 31 home runs and drove in 83.

Veteran baseball writer Marty Appel posted the following tribute on Facebook, which is reprinted with Marty’s blessing:

Saddened today to learn of the passing of old friend OSCAR GAMBLE (red shirt in photo). We were forever “linked” by his famous haircut, the story of which follows….

The Yankees got Oscar from Cleveland during the winter of 1975-76. He was famous for his really big Afro while with the Indians, but the Yankees had a strict haircut policy and it would have to go.

So one fine Sunday morning I was in my room at the Ft. Lauderdale Inn on Federal Highway, when my phone rang. It was team President Gabe Paul, telling me that he just saw Oscar arrive from his window “and his hair is still all bushied up.” And he said, “You have to arrange to get it cut – today.”

I was the PR Director. “Why me?” I asked. “Because if he shows up to workout like that tomorrow, we won’t issue him a uniform. He’ll file a grievance, we’ll lose the grievance, and the whole policy will be gone. It will be a huge PR problem.”

Oh boy.

So my Sunday plans would be changed. There was, in this nondescript Florida motel, a barber shop in the lobby (closed Sunday). I asked the manager for the barber’s home number and persuaded him to come in for this special assignment. For $40, he agreed — but now I had to get Oscar!

I had only met Oscar once and didn’t think he’d remember me. I knocked on his door with more than a little hesitancy, re-introduced myself, and explained the situation. I told him the barber had agreed to come in on a Sunday.

To my everlasting relief and delight, Oscar was fine with the arrangement. For added support, I asked Ellie Howard (coach and Yankee great) to sit in with us at the barber. I did not alert media, thinking that might be a turn-off for Oscar.

So around 2 pm the barber arrived. I said, “Thanks for coming in and by the way, have you ever cut a black man’s hair before?” The answer was no. “Geeez, don’t tell him that,” I said.

The haircut proceeded and guess what – Oscar liked it! He had a big smile and it seemed like he couldn’t wait to show his new teammates.

And from that point on, we were pals. He was a wonderful guy to be around. We even reunited a few years ago at Fantasy Camp where I interviewed him for Yankees.com (Yankees on Demand) and we relived the whole day.

I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo done at the barber, but “before and after” pictures ran across the nation the next day after he showed up for his first workout.

I’m also sorry that I didn’t save a copy of my expense report for that week, which showed the $40 haircut.

Rest in peace, my friend…….one of the most likable guys in the game.

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