Cito Gaston

Clarence Edwin "Cito" Gaston (/ˈst ˈɡæstən/; born March 17, 1944) is a former Major League Baseball outfielder and manager. His major league career as a player lasted from 1967 to 1978, most notably with the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves. He spent his entire managerial career with the Toronto Blue Jays, becoming the first African-American manager in Major League Baseball history to win a World Series title.

Cito Gaston
Outfielder / Manager
Born: (1944-03-17) March 17, 1944
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 14, 1967, for the Atlanta Braves
Last MLB appearance
October 1, 1978, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
MLB statistics
Batting average.256
Home runs91
Runs batted in387
Managerial record894–837
Winning %.516
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
Member of the Canadian
Baseball Hall of Fame

Cito Gaston managed the Toronto Blue Jays from 1989 to 1997, then again from 2008 to 2010. During this time, he managed the Blue Jays to four American League East division titles (1989, 1991, 1992 and 1993), two American League pennants (1992 and 1993) and two World Series titles (1992 and 1993).

Personal life

Gaston grew up in San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Texas, where his father was a semi-truck driver. His career ambitions were either to be a truck driver like his father, or make it into the Major Leagues. He adopted his nickname 'Cito' in preference to his given name 'Clarence'. Gaston later told Toronto Blue Jays broadcasters the name was taken from a Mexican-American wrestler he watched as a young man in Texas. Other reports state Gaston was given this nickname from a friend named Carlos Thompson who thought Gaston resembled a well known Mexican wrestler named "Cito".[1][2]

As a player with the Atlanta Braves, he was the roommate of Hank Aaron. Gaston credits Aaron with teaching him "how to be a man; how to stand on my own."[3]

Gaston has been married three times. His first marriage ended in divorce with Gaston citing his baseball career as the reason.[1] His second marriage to a Canadian woman, Denise, lasted from the early 80s to the early 2000s.[1] Since 2003, Gaston has been married to Lynda,[4] both residing in Oldsmar, Florida.[1][5] When in Toronto, Gaston lives in a downtown condominium which he sublets to former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach Tim Hunter.[5]

Playing career

United States

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 (the highest batting average by a Padre prior to Tony Gwynn's arrival[6]) 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 (1975–1978).[7]


In the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, Cito Gaston played with the Cardenales de Lara (1967–68), the Navegantes del Magallanes (1968–72, 1975–76) and the Tiburones de La Guaira (1976–77).[8] Gaston hit 31 home runs and drove in 207 runs in 310 games (regular season).[8]

Managerial career

Cito Gaston is a member of the Toronto Blue Jays' Level of Excellence.

Pre-World Series seasons

Gaston became the hitting coach for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1982. The Blue Jays won their first division title in 1985 with Gaston as hitting coach. He 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".[3] It was only when his players encouraged him to take the job did he reconsider the offer.

Gaston was able to take superstars and mold them into a team. 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).[9] 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.[9]

World Series seasons

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 each year from 1989 to 1992, setting new records each of the latter three years, riding high from a dedicated fan base and following the Blue Jays' move into the SkyDome a few weeks after Gaston became manager. The resulting financial success allowed for major free agent signings, including Jack Morris and Dave Winfield ahead of the 1992 season, and Dave Stewart and Paul Molitor for 1993. The Blue Jays also retained core All-Stars such as Joe Carter, Devon White, Roberto Alomar, and John Olerud. 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.[3]

Gaston had worked with players at an individual level as a hitting instructor and did the same as manager. He was known for his open communication with his players.[10] He was a successful game strategist, effectively handling National League rules during World Series games in Atlanta and Philadelphia. In the six road games during World Series play, the Jays went 4–2, including the title clincher in Game 6 of the 1992 World Series in Atlanta. The 1992 World Series victory was the first for a non-American team, and Gaston was the first African-American manager to win a World Series. The Blue Jays followed their 1992 success with a repeat victory in the 1993 World Series, an impressive feat, given that the Jays had lost starting position players Manuel Lee, Kelly Gruber, Candy Maldonado and Dave Winfield, starting pitchers Jimmy Key, David Cone and Dave Stieb, relievers Tom Henke and David Wells and bench players Derek Bell and Pat Tabler during the off-season following 1992.

All-Star manager

Gaston managed the American League team in the 1993 and 1994 All-Star Games, since he was the manager of the American League champions in 1992 and 1993. He was criticized for selecting six Blue Jays to the 1993 roster, but was unapologetic, stating all six were World Champions and two were future Hall of Famers. Gaston's prediction proved correct, as two of those players (Roberto Alomar and Paul Molitor) have been voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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.[11] Mussina later claimed that he was simply doing a between-start workout, but some interpreted it as 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. Orioles fans did not like this perceived snub, later wearing T-shirts that said "Cito sucks" and carrying signs with the phrase, "Will Rogers never met Cito Gaston", referencing Rogers' famous line, "I never met a man yet that I didn't like."[12]

Post-World Series

Gaston's fortunes, like those of the Blue Jays franchise as a whole, 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 owner Interbrew (which acquired founding owner Labatt in 1995) 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, but 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 Gillick's successor as general manager, Gord Ash. 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 No. 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.[13] Gaston finished his first stint as manager with a 683–636 regular season record and 18–16 post–season record.[9]

Gaston was a final candidate for the Detroit Tigers manager's job in the 1999–2000[14] season and was the runner-up in the Chicago White Sox manager position in the 2003–2004 off season. Sox GM Kenny Williams, who had played under Gaston in Toronto, had him as of two finalists for the job but decided to hire Ozzie Guillén.[15][16] 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.[17][18] Gaston turned down an opportunity with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004.[19]

Cito Gaston's name is honoured by the Toronto Blue Jays in Rogers Centre.

Gaston rejoined the team as a hitting coach after the 1999 season under manager Buck Martinez 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.[20]

Managerial return

On June 20, 2008, Gaston was rehired as the manager of the Blue Jays to replace John Gibbons. It was his first managerial job at the major-league level since being fired by the Blue Jays 11 years earlier, which was unusual for a World Series-winning manager.[21] The team's record was 35–39 when Gaston and his coaching staff took over, after which the Blue Jays went 51–37 for the remainder of the season which included a late ten-game winning streak and the team finished fourth in the American League East.[9] On September 25, 2008, it was announced that Gaston had signed a two-year extension that would keep him as manager until 2010.[22] He announced on October 30, 2009 that he would retire after the 2010 season.[23]

Managerial record

TeamYearRegular seasonPostseason
GamesWonLostWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
TOR1989 1267749.6111st in AL East14.200Lost ALCS (OAK)
TOR1990 1628676.5312nd in AL East
TOR1991 1297257.5581st in AL East14.200Lost ALCS (MIN)
TOR1992 1629666.5931st in AL East84.667Won World Series (ATL)
TOR1993 1629567.5861st in AL East84.667Won World Series (PHI)
TOR1994 1155560.4783rd in AL East
TOR1995 1445688.3895th in AL East
TOR1996 1627488.4574th in AL East
TOR1997 1577285.459fired
TOR2008 885137.5804th in AL East
TOR2009 1627587.4634th in AL East
TOR2010 1628577.5254th in AL East


  • In April 1997, during a pre-game interview, Gaston accused specific members of Toronto's sports media (Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons, The Globe and Mail sports editor Dave Langford, and Fan 590 sports talk show host Bob McCown) of racism against him, stating "There's a couple (of sports writers) who continue to take shots at me for no reason at all. I just wonder if they would take the same shot at me if I was white."[24] After the game against the Oakland A's on April 17, Gaston spoke briefly about his pre-game comments. "I've got one statement that I'm going to say, and I'm not going to say another word", Gaston said. "Whatever has been said, whatever has been written, if it has offended someone and it's unjustly offended them, I apologize. If it hasn't, then I don't apologize."[24]
  • On October 3, 2009, an online column by Fox Sports baseball writer Ken Rosenthal reported of a mutiny in the Blue Jays' clubhouse against Gaston by his players and some members of his coaching staff. Rosenthal cited unnamed sources who claimed that the mutiny was a result of his impatience with the players after they started losing, partially reflected with players getting less playing time,[25] his lack of communication, including his inability to properly communicate substitutions,[25] and his negativity, especially when it came to the younger players who required more positive reinforcement.[25] A day after the report, Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay was quoted as being one of the players who was surprised over his lack of playing time as well as wanting Gaston to improve his communication. "More than anything, I want to try to figure out what to expect for next year. It kind of caught me off-guard a little bit when I wasn't playing. ... (Gaston) never really said a lot. As we were winning, he was kind of sitting on the back burner, watching us play good."[26] When asked about the report on the clubhouse mutiny, Gaston replied that he was surprised that such criticism existed. "If you've got two or three or four guys in there that have a problem, then you don't have to win anything, do you? You might have to certainly deal with those guys, but you don't have to win the clubhouse back. I don't think that you can ... rely (on a few) players to find out (if there's a problem). I think you need to talk to all of them. If it comes up to 50 percent, then, hey, maybe we've got a problem. I'd like to know what the problem is because I can't be any fairer than I've been."[26]
  • On June 1, 2010, Fan 590 broadcaster Mike Wilner had an argument during a media scrum with Gaston about his field level decision making. Wilner detailed the confrontation on his blog.[27] The following day, Fan 590 - a station of Blue Jays owner Rogers Communications - announced he would not be covering the team for several days, but refused to specify the reason.[28]

Awards and honors

"Thank You Cito Night" on September 29, 2010 in Toronto


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  2. Elliott, Bob (September 28, 2010). "Cito Gaston: A baseball life". Archived from the original on August 1, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
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  13. "Joe Carter". The Baseball Page. Archived from the original on July 18, 2009. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  14. 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.
  15. Greenstein, Teddy (October 22, 2003). "Two of the leading candidates for the White Sox's manager vacancy have their pluses--and minuses". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2020-11-01. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  16. "Ozz-fest in Chicago: Guillen new Sox manager". ESPN. November 3, 2003. Archived from the original on 2016-08-04. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  17. Brunt, Stephen. "The Game", The Globe and Mail, June 21, 2008, p. S1; Blair, Jeff. "Out with the New, In with the Old", June 21, 2008, p. S1
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