Clarence Edwin "Cito" Gaston (Template:PronEng; born March 17, 1944) is the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays and a former outfielder in professional baseball. He is best known for managing the Toronto Blue Jays to their two World Series championships in 1992 and 1993. On June 20, 2008, Gaston returned as the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays by replacing John Gibbons. In his second tenure as manager, he has succeeded in improving the team's record to the point that it finished over .500, after a poor start to the season under his predecessor John Gibbons that had mired it in last place at the time of his rehiring.
Gaston grew up in San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Texas, where his father was a truck driver. His career ambitions were either to be a truck driver like his father, or make into the Major Leagues. His name 'Cito' was adopted by him as a preference to his given name 'Clarence'. Gaston later told Toronto Blue Jays broadcasters that the name was taken from a Mexican-American wrestler he watched as a young man in Texas.
As a veteran player with the Atlanta Braves, he was the roommate of the former all-time Major League Home Run leader, Hank Aaron. Gaston credits Aaron with teaching him "how to be a man; how to stand on my own."
Primarily a center fielder, Gaston began his decade-long playing career in 1967 with the Atlanta Braves, appearing in nine games. The following year he was selected by the San Diego Padres in the expansion draft, first playing for them in 1969. He had his best individual season in 1970, when he batted .318 with 29 home runs, 92 runs scored and 93 RBI, and was selected to the National League All-Star team. The rest of Gaston's career did not live up to his All-Star season success. Gaston never hit more than 17 home runs or knocked in more than 61 runs in any season with the Padres (until 1974) or the Braves (from 1975 until 1978).
Pre-World Series seasonsEdit
Gaston became the hitting coach for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1982. Gaston remained the hitting instructor until 15 May 1989, when he took over managerial duties from Jimy Williams, when the team was suffering through an unexpectedly bad start. Gaston originally declined the offer to be manager when Williams was fired. He told Ebony magazine: "When I was offered the job as manager, I didn't want it. I was happy working as the team's hitting instructor". It was only when his players encouraged him to take the job did he reconsider the offer.
Under Gaston's leadership, Toronto transformed from a sub-.500 team (12–24 under Jimy Williams) to the eventual division winners, going 89–73 (77–49 under Gaston). Toronto's success under Gaston was not short-lived, as they finished second in the division behind Boston the following year and won the division again in 1991, 1992 and 1993.
World Series seasonsEdit
As a coach and manager, Gaston was considered a player's manager. He was a soft spoken and steady influence during years that saw a large group of talented, high salaried players grace the Blue Jays uniform. The franchise led the Major Leagues in attendance, riding high from a dedicated fan base and new stadium to play in when Gaston took the helm. The Jays opened the SkyDome a few months after Gaston became manager and the financial success translated into major free agent signings, including pitcher Jack Morris, and outfielders Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Rickey Henderson. They also retained core All-stars such as Joe Carter, Devon White, Roberto Alomar and John Olerud. The Jays franchise won their first division title in 1985 and before Gaston was hired, the franchise was known for failing to live up to expectations. Gaston was able to take superstars and mold them into a team. Outfielder and World Series hero Joe Carter credits Gaston for the team's championships:
Cito knows how to work with each individual, treating everyone like a human being. He knows exactly what to say, when to say it, what to do and how to go about doing it. When you have a manager like that, it makes you want to play for the guy. We'd go to war for him. What Cito has done for the Blue Jays can't be taken lightly.Gaston worked with players at an individual level as a hitting instructor and transferred this to the job of manager. He was known for his open communication with his players. He was a successful game strategist, effectively handling National League rules during World Series games in Atlanta and Philadelphia. In the six games the Blue Jays played in those places during World Series play, the Jays went 4–2, including the title clincher in Game 6 of the 1992 World Series in Atlanta. Though the World Series victory was widely recognized as the first ever for a non-American team, what wasn't as widely known was the fact that Gaston became the first ever African-American manager to win a World Series. The Blue Jays followed their 1992 success with a repeat victory in the 1993 World Series.
Gaston was the manager for two American League All-Star teams since he was the manager of the championship American League franchise in 1992 and 1993. He was criticized for selecting six Blue Jays to the 1993 roster, but was unapolgetic stating all six were World Champions and two were future Hall of Famers.
In the 1993 All-Star Game held at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, he was criticized for not getting Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina into the game. Mussina got up in the ninth inning to warm up in the bullpen. Mussina later claimed that he was simply doing a between-start workout, but some interpreted it was an attempt to force Gaston to put him into the game. As angry fans jeered in dismay, incredulous that Gaston would not use the popular local player and believing Mussina had been sent to warm up for no reason, Gaston instead allowed Blue Jays pitcher Duane Ward to close out the victory for the American League. Baltimore fans did not like this perceived snub, and T-shirts were sold outside of Camden Yards that season bearing the phrase, "Will Rogers never met Cito Gaston," referencing the famous line by Will Rogers, "I never met a man yet that I didn't like."
Post-World Series Edit
Gaston's success, like that of the Blue Jays franchise, faded after the championship years. The World Series winning clubs had dissipated because of aging players, increased post-Series salary demands, and the failure of new ownership to raise the budget substantially. After Major League Baseball solved its labor problems in 1994, Pat Gillick and eventually Paul Beeston left the organization and annual attendance began to drop considerably. Yet, the Blue Jays were still trying to compete in the American League East and in 1997 signed free agent Roger Clemens. When the team could barely break the .500 mark all season, Gaston was fired by GM Gord Ash. He had failed to lead the team to a winning record since 1993 and seemed uninterested in keeping his position. Gaston forced Ash's hand by telling his boss that he was taking a vacation at season's end and would not be around for the usual post season evaluation process. He was replaced by then-pitching coach Mel Queen on an interim basis for the last week of the 1997 season. Joe Carter wore Gaston's #43 on his jersey for the remainder of the season in part to honor him and in part to express his displeasure at his firing.
Gaston was a final candidate for the Detroit Tigers manager's job in the 1999–2000 season and was the runner-up in the Chicago White Sox manager position in the 2003–2004 off season. Sox GM Kenny Williams, a former Blue Jays player, had Gaston as one of two finalists for the job but decided to hire Ozzie Guillén. Gaston had several offers to rejoin major league teams as a hitting instructor, namely the Kansas City Royals, but declined offers. After interviewing unsuccessfully for several other managerial jobs, Gaston said that he would only manage again if he were hired directly without an interview.
Gaston rejoined the team as a hitting coach after the 1999 season but was not retained after a disappointing 2001 campaign and the sale of the franchise to Rogers Communications. In 2002, he was hired by the Jays for a third time, as special assistant to president and chief executive officer Paul Godfrey.
On June 20, 2008, Gaston was re-hired as the manager of the Blue Jays to replace the fired John Gibbons. At the time of his hiring, Gaston had been a special assistant to the CEO for the organization. On September 25, it was announced that Gaston had signed a two-year extension that would keep him with the Jays until 2010. When Gibbons was fired, the team's record was 35–39; after Gaston and his coaching staff took over, the team earned a record of 51–37 for the remainder of the season, which included a late ten-game winning streak, and the Blue Jays finished fourth in the American League East.
Gaston was elected into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002. In 1999, his Blue Jays uniform name and number (#43) were honoured by addition to the Rogers Centre's Blue Jays "Level of Excellence". The University of Toronto granted Gaston an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree in June 1994.
- ↑ "Blue Jays fire manager Gibbons and rehire Gaston". WRAL. 20 June 2008.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Leavy, Walter. "Cito Gaston: on top of the baseball world - baseball manager", Ebony March 1994. Available online at: http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1077/is_n7_v49/ai_15198539
- ↑ Cito Gaston. The Baseball Almanac (website). Available online at: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/player.php?p=gastoci01
- ↑ Craig, Tommy. "Words of advice from Tom Craig". Personal Management Coaching (website). Available online at: http://www.pmcoaching.com/tom.htm
- ↑ 1993 All-Star Game. Baseball Almanac. (website) Available online at: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/asgbox/yr1993as.shtml
- ↑ Stanley, Diane. My Personal Shawn Green Biography (website). Available online at: http://www.shawngreen.net/biography/1997.html. NOTE: This source is offered as a source although it is a personal website yet reflects common opinion at the time.
- ↑ http://www.thebaseballpage.com/players/cartejo01.php
- ↑ Stone, Mike and Bob Wojnowski. WDFN Sports Radio, Stoney & Wojo Show November-December 1999. Detroit Free Press and Detroit News reports citing Gaston's candidacy were discussed weekly while the Tigers searched for a replacement to Lance Parrish.
- ↑ Padilla, Doug. Chicago Sun-Times 2 November 2003. Available online at: http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4155/is_20031102/ai_n12528915
- ↑ Elliot, Bob. Toronto Sun 24 October 2003. Available online at: http://www.canoe.ca/NewsStand/TorontoSun/Sports/2003/10/24/234991.html
- ↑ Brunt, Stephen. "The Game," Toronto Globe and Mail, June 21, 2008, p. S1; Blair, Jeff. "Out with the New, In with the Old", June 21, 2008, p. S1
- ↑ Bastian, Jordan. "Gaston's second act a lot like the first," MLB.com, May 11, 2009, Available at: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090511&content_id=4671994&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb
- ↑ CBC News (website). "Gaston back with Blue Jays" 25 February 2002. CBC News Available online at: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/story/2002/02/23/gaston020223.html
- ↑ http://www.tsn.ca/blogs/baseball_blog/?id=250781&lid=sublink05&lpos=topRelated_mlb
- ↑ Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Available online at: http://www.baseballhalloffame.ca/inductees.html
- ↑ Blue Jay Way (website). Level of Excellence Members Available online at: http://www.bluejayway.ca/jaytabase/excellence.php
- ↑ Official Site of the Toronto Blue Jays (website). Toronto Blue Jays History. Available online at: http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/tor/history/timeline4.jsp
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- Cito Gaston's managerial stats from Baseball-Reference.com
- "Gaston perfect for Jays" (Canadian Press article on Cito Gaston)
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