Oscar Gamble, the sweet-swinging left-handed power hitter with the Yankees most famously known for his oversized Afro hairstyle, died Wednesday. He was 68 years old.
Gamble’s agent, Andrew Levy, confirmed his death to MLB.com, although no cause of death has been reported.
“One of the best teammates probably any of us ever had. As good a teammate as they come,” former Yankees closer and Baseball Hall of Famer Goose Gossage told the Daily News. “Oh my God, he was hilarious, great sense of humor, just very close to all of us. It’s tough for all of us. We knew that he’d been sick for some time, and the last couple of years he’s gone downhill pretty quickly. But I will always remember his hair and his power and his ability to keep everyone loose…What a character, man. He’ll be sorely missed by all of us.”
Gamble spent seven of his 17 seasons in the majors with the Yankees during the late 1970s and ‘80s, mostly serving as a platoon player in the outfield and at designated hitter.
“It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of former Yankee Oscar Gamble,” the Yankees said in a statement. “His prodigious power, unique style and joy in wearing pinstripes made him a favorite of fans and of the Steinbrenner family. In recent years, his appearances at Old-Timers’ Day and work at our Fantasy Camp in Florida delighted those who got to reconnect with his personality and love of the game. Oscar was a treasured member of the Yankees family and will be deeply missed by our entire organization. We offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends and all who knew him.”
Upon being acquired for pitcher Pat Dobson in 1976, Gamble was forced by George Steinbrenner to cut his trademark hair. But a well-known baseball card that year depicting Gamble with his hair oozing out from both sides from beneath his Yankees cap became his calling card for the rest of his career and later in life.
“I sign those cards all the time,” Gamble told the Daily News in 2008. “When I’ve been at the Stadium, they always put that big Afro on the scoreboard and I get a good hand. I didn’t know how famous it would get. A lot of people were wearing Afros.”
Gamble, a popular Yankee whenever he returned for Old-Timers’ Day ceremonies or at the team’s fantasy camps, said he’d often receive calls from reporters during his retirement whenever the subject of an incoming player needing to trim his hair arose.
SOURCE: PETER BOTTE
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS