I feel I should only approach Oscar Gamble, one of the most memorable figures for us baseball-loving children of the 1970s, in a state of absolute clarity, ready to script transcendent odes to his afro. But since I’ve been at this project of writing about all my childhood baseball cards for quite a while and have yet to write about Oscar Gamble I can only deduce that such states of absolute clarity never exist. No matter how I try to capture Oscar Gamble in words I’m going to blow it, so I might as well get it over with on a nothing morning, a Tuesday after a short vacation, no inspiration or even curiosity in my mind, just a low-level sense of unease that the delayed work week is about to fall on top of me like a collapsing abandoned circus tent. It’s a day without possibilities, a day without magic, a day to remain silent, reaching for nothing.
But there’s Oscar Gamble. There’s always Oscar Gamble. In the five heaviest years of my baseball card collecting Oscar Gamble played for six different major league teams. You could never tell for sure where he was at any given moment, so there was always a chance he could appear from anywhere. Maybe even a nothing day has the possibility of his appearance in it. No matter where you are or what you are doing, Oscar Gamble might appear, his swing wicked, jagged, able to wrench pinch-hit homers into the right field seats, his afro billowing below his crushed-down batting helmet as he circles the bases, unfurling to its full magnificence when the batting helmet is removed on the walk from home plate to the dugout, big enough to blot out entire dying galaxies in the sky. His afro! There is hope! Here the caretaker of that famous life-affirming coiffure is shown in two places at once, his doctored home Padre uniform suggesting San Diego while the Brut (by Faberge) sign behind him declares the location of his home stadium as Chicago’s Comiskey Park (update: as pointed out by astute readers in the comments below, it is actually Yankee Stadium). If Oscar Gamble can be both here and there then maybe he’s everywhere. Even when I’m nowhere.
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(Love versus Hate update: Oscar Gamble’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)