Thursday, January 5, 2012

DAHOF Top 100 -- #73 Oscar Gamble

Rest assured, Oscar would have likely secured a place in my Top 100 list for his legendary afro. But there is more to our relationship than just funky hair...

On September 17th, 1977 my Dad loaded me and my brothers into the car and drove the 90 minutes (or so) around Lake Michigan to Comiskey Park. Stuck in third place the magical "South Side Hitmen" I had followed on my transistor radio all summer had faded 11.5 games behind the Royals.

The cold harsh reality that the Sox were not going to the playoffs didn't enter mind mind as we scrambled through the damp Comiskey Park concourse to get a glimpse of the sun drenched field. I only got to go to one or two games a season and on this Saturday the California Angels were in town. As we settled into our seats in the right field upper deck, Sox starter Steve Renko gave up a run in the second inning when a strangely named rookie called Willie Mays Aikens shot a grounder to Jorge Orta on right side of the infield, scoring DH Don Baylor from third. Baylor led off the inning with a walk, stole second, and somehow failed to score on a Ken Landreaux double. The Angels extended their lead to 2-0 in the top of the 5th when Jerry Remy lofted a sacrifice fly to Chet Lemon in center field, scoring Thad Bosley. The next inning they put up a third run when Landreaux doubled in Baylor. 3-0 Angels. Sigh.

Things were not looking great for the Sox in the bottom of the 7th inning when Angels reliever Dyar Miller came in and coaxed Jim Essian and Ralph Garr into two quick outs. Then the righthanded Miller lost his control and walked both Chet Lemon and Jorge Orta. Things were getting interesting as Oscar Gamble strolled to the plate. Before you could blink, Oscar turned on one and blasted a game-knotting three run homer into Comiskey's famed upper deck. The ball landed a few rows in front and to the right of us. I had no chance at the ball, but it seemed that all hell broke loose anyway. As I gained my bearings, the scoreboard blasted it's legendary fireworks and Nancy Faust played "Hey Hey Goodbye" on the organ. I had goosebumps as I joined the rest of the Sox fans bellowing the now familiar lyrics. To the 11 year old version of me, it was like crack cocaine and I was hooked on my first inhale.

Preparing for this post, I didn't remember that Bobby Bonds had an RBI single in the top of the ninth (off Clay Carroll) to give the Angels the win. Nor did I recall Sox All Star Richie Zisk ended the game as a pinch hitter, popping out to second. The miracle of internet and baseball-reference gives my childhood baseball memories detail and context. Oscar's blast was his 30th home run, he would hit his career high 31st (and final 1977) HR the next day. In the end, the only thing I really remembered was the explosion of the crowd and fireworks and the singing. Magic.


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