Friday, March 17, 2017

Why not take a Gamble?…

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In honor of the occasion, I decided to profile a former Irish Yankee...the great O'Gamble!  Well, alright, he wasn't exactly Irish but Oscar Gamble did wear #17.

Younger Yankees fans might not know who Oscar Gamble is.  Most have probably seen the poofy Afro under the Yankees cap, or might know that he played for 7 teams over the course of a 17-year career.  But for me, he was an invaluable Yankee.  

Oscar, an outfielder and DH, played for the Yankees in 1976 and then returned in 1979 for 5 more years.  The Big O was never a full-time player for the Yankees, and his career year came the year after his first stint in pinstripes, while playing for the Chicago White Sox.  That year, 1977, he hit 31 homers with 83 RBI's.  His best year in the Bronx was 1982 when he hit 18 home runs, drove in 57 RBI's, and had a .272 batting average.

Despite minimal full-time starts, Oscar still managed to hit 200 home runs for his career.  I loved his batting style.  He would go into a deep crouch, and would explode on the ball.  There have been just a few Yankees that I truly loved their home run swings.  Darryl Strawberry was probably my all-time favorite, followed by Reggie Jackson, but the Big O was up there too.  I didn't get to see Mickey Mantle swing so that's the only reason he is not in the group.

I had enjoyed Oscar during his first season in New York in 1976.  I was saddened when he was traded to the White Sox at the start of the 1977 season, along with pitcher LaMarr Hoyt, who went on to have a very good career, and a minor leaguer for Russell Earl "Bucky" Dent. So, I was excited when he returned to New York in 1979 in a trade with the Texas Rangers although admittedly I was disappointed to see Mickey "Mick the Quick" Rivers head the other direction.  

Unfortunately, the joy was very short-lived as my favorite Yankee at the time, Thurman Munson, was killed in a plane crash a couple of days later.  Still, it was players like Oscar that helped me cope with that very difficult and devastating time.  

In early 1981 (before spring training began), I had the opportunity to meet Oscar.  Young and stupid at the time, I walked up to his house in Montgomery, Alabama, and knocked on the door.  Oscar answered it and gave me his autograph.  We talked briefly about the Yankees, and he spoke of how excited he was to play with outfielder Dave Winfield, whom the Yankees had just signed as a free agent.  I will forever remember that meeting.  He was such a gracious man and he was so patient with me that day.  I can't imagine walking up to a ballplayer's house today.  I'd probably get shot.  

So, here's to the great Oscar Gamble!  I will never forget your days in pinstripes and still carry your autograph with me to this day.  We go through life and there are certain people that leave a lasting impression. For me, Oscar was one of those people.  If I can go through life and be half the man he is, I will have done well for myself.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Also, I'd like to give a shout out to the current #17 so Happy St. Paddy's day to new Yankees designated hitter Matt O'Holliday!  Looking forward to the 2017 season when every day is a Holliday!

As expected, the Yankees signed reliever Ernesto Frieri on Thursday to a minor league contract with an invitation to MLB camp.  Joe Girardi has indicated that Frieri has a chance to make the Opening Day roster, but I think an extended stay in Tampa is the more likely scenario.  Nevertheless, if he pitches as well as he did in his short stint with Columbia (WBC) this month, Girardi could be right.  

In Grapefruit League action yesterday, James Kaprielian made his long anticipated first appearance against Toronto and did not disappoint.  He came on in the 7th and stayed for two innings.  He walked a batter but did not relinquish a hit or run.  He struck out 3 Blue Jays, and picked up the win.  This is just the first step of many before Kaprielian makes his Bronx debut appearance but I am so looking forward to that day. 

The Yankees overcame an early hole to win the game, 11-5, thanks in large part to four home runs.   The Yankees are now 15-5 for the Spring.  

Kaprielian was re-assigned to minor league camp after the game, but as Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, “He’ll be back!”…

Outfielder Mason Williams was also sent down.

Luis Cessa, don’t let the door hit you on the way out to minor league camp when they call your name.  Cessa and his 11.25 ERA are not long for the major league camp.  Most likely, the competition for the #5 spot is down to Chad Green and Bryan Mitchell (Go Mitch!).  Severino has #4 locked up, and Adam Warren’s highest and best use is in the pen.  

Have a great Friday and a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day!

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)