BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Oscar Gamble, the former Yankee known as much for his left-handed power as for his large Afro, died Wednesday at age 68.
His wife, Lovell Woods Gamble, said Gamble died at UAB Hospital in Birmingham. She said he was diagnosed with a benign tumor of the jaw, ameloblastoma, about nine years ago. It became ameloblastic carcinoma in 2016, and he had the first of several operations that August. He entered the hospital on Jan. 22. She said he never chewed tobacco.
Gamble, an outfielder and designated hitter, played 17 seasons in the majors, from 1969 to 1985. His career included two stints and seven years with the Yankees. He was a member of two AL pennant teams in New York, in 1976 and 1981, but he never played for a World Series winner.
He was instrumental in the Yankees’ run to the ’81 World Series, going 5-for-9 with two home runs in the American League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, including a solo shot in the deciding Game 5.
Gamble mostly came off the bench for the Bronx Bombers, and his left-handed stroke was a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium with its short right-field porch. He hit .259 with 87 homers and 276 RBIs in his years with the Yankees.
His best season, however, came in 1977 with the Chicago White Sox, when he batted .297 with 31 home runs. For his career, he batted .265 with 200 homers and 666 RBIs.
An Alabama native, Gamble also played for the Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs, who drafted him in the 16th round in 1968.
Gamble’s 1976 Topps baseball card is considered iconic. It shows his wild hair protruding from underneath a Yankees cap. But the image was actually doctored. Because Gamble had not yet joined the team, Topps altered an image from when he was with the Cleveland Indians to make it appear he was wearing a Yankees cap and pinstripes.
In reality, Gamble was forced to cut his hair when he joined the team.
“If you had to pick the top Topps cards of all time, this would definitely make the list,” Clay Luraschi, vice president of product development for the Topps Co., told The Undefeated last year. “It’s so memorable; people just love that card. I go to a lot of different events, whether sporting events or trading-card-related events, and the Oscar Gamble card gets talked about as much as the Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson cards.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)