Monday, September 27, 2010

Before There Was Interleague Play...

...there were Topps airbrush artists.

This may actually be one of the most interesting pictures used in the 1973 Topps baseball card set:

Card #372 - Oscar Gamble, Cleveland Indians

While the card says Gamble's playing for Cleveland, he's shown sliding into second against Dave Concepcion of the Cincinnati Reds. At that time, there was no interleague play, so the cross-state teams had no reason to be squaring off. The picture was taken when he was still a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, and that's pretty evident when you take a close look at Gamble's uniform (and the outfield wall of the old Veteran's Stadium, thanks Steve). Obviously, it was an airbrush job that had to be rushed.

Beyond that, the dust kicked up from Gamble's slide gives an illusion of a floating head (another infielder, probably knocked down during the play) in the scene.

Oscar Gamble is better known today as a Yankees player in the 1970s and again in the 1980s, but among card collectors he's best known as the man with the most famous Afro in baseball. In this picture, his hair is beginning to "grow" into its own, but later in the 1970s it was awesome (here's a blog that shows an example). His hairstyle overshadowed Gamble the player, who wasn't exactly the best fielder but possessed some power at the plate. This made him an ideal designated hitter, a role he was given often in his career. He also had a good batting eye, walking more times in his career than striking out.

He also got along well with the New York press, a group that is often a source of major frustration among players in the Big Apple. His flashy manner of dressing (and this was the 1970s, so you know it was over the top), gregarious attitude and overall demeanor made him a hit with the writers. He was once quoted as saying, "They don't think it be like it is, but it do."

Stop and say that sentence a couple of times. Few players since Yogi Berra have been able to say something that you have to stop and read again.


  1. I know cards today use crisper photography and are probably better pictures, but I will always love these older cards, even with bad airbrushing and somewhat questionable photographs.

  2. I got my first home run ball off of Oscar when he was with the Yanks, at the Oakland Coliseum. So his fro is all the more cool.

  3. Oh, and 371 was the power alley distance at the Vet.