When I first started covering the Yankees as a radio reporter in 1980, Oscar Gamble was one of the “go to guys.”
A “go to guy” for a radio reporter was an athlete that you could rely on to give you a solid “soundbite,” even after a loss. In those early days, many players just didn’t want to talk after games or would give you one or two word answers that print reporters could use but were useless for radio. Gamble bailed you out on many nights during the height of the George Steinbrenner era when you absolutely needed reaction from Yankee players after a game. He not only gave you a good soundbite, he was fun to talk to.
Being a “go to guy” for radio reporters is not just how I’ll remember the man who passed away yesterday at the age of 68, a number that really hits home on a personal level because I’m not that far off from it.
Most important, Gamble was a good man who treated every reporter equally. The beat reporters who cover the team on an everyday basis have a chance to develop somewhat of a relationship with the players (some closer than others) because they experience some of the same trials and tribulations (lots of travel and a hectic schedule during the season) that go along with the job. For radio reporters, it’s harder to develop a relationship with players because of the nature of the job, but Gamble, along with Willie Randolph and some others, did not view you with any less respect than he did the writers at that time.
I will also remember that Gamble provided an entertaining batting practice session before games.
One of the “perks” with being a professional who reports on baseball is that you get to watch BP from the field. In my early days, reporters were allowed to stand right at the cage. (They keep you cordoned off nowadays) During one session, Gamble was taking his swings along with two other hitters and was calling his shots ala Babe Ruth.
Gamble stepped in and said, and I’m paraphrasing, “This one is going upper deck” and the left handed hitter would step in and send one into the right field upper deck. After one of the other hitters said “You were lucky there Oscar,” Gamble said, “this one is going to the area where the old right field bullpen was” and there was a baseball sailing into that area just between the bleachers and right field stands.
Suffice it to say, I was amazed and glad to be standing there to witness this. The “awe” that comes with the beginnings of a career into sports journalism had not yet worn off so it was a “jaw dropping” event for me. As I covered more games, I saw that Gamble did this a lot before a game. Some nights it paid off in the real game, and some nights it didn’t.
Thanks Oscar for bailing us out and making the Stadium a fun place to be. RIP