It seems like every day the news is the same; only the names change. Today the baseball world turns to celebrating the life of Oscar Gamble, who died this morning after years of combating ameloblastic carcinoma, a rare cancer of the jaw. Gamble played for 17 seasons, from 1969 through ‘85, with his peak falling right around the middle. In The Big Lebowski, The Stranger posits that “Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.” That was Oscar Gamble in Major League Baseball in the 1970s.
Not only is Gamble immediately identified with the 1970s, over the years he became the de facto avatar of the era. It helped that he spent time with the Phillies, Indians, White Sox, Padres, and Rangers (along with the Cubs and Yankees), as all of these teams had uniforms that practically screamed the year by taking the experimentation of the decade a step beyond just ditching belts and natural fibers. This, coupled with his famed ‘fro, made for someone who represented that particular pocket of history perfectly.
Nowhere is this more apparent than on the cover of Dan Epstein’s phenomenal book about baseball in the 1970’s, Big Hair and Plastic Grass, which I happened to be re-re-re-re-re-reading before I fell asleep last night (okay, this morning):