Wednesday, February 8, 2012


This guy was an original member of the San Diego Padres but claimed a couple of significant feats during his career as a manger:

Card #159 -- Clarence Gaston, San Diego Padres

In 1992 and '93, "Cito" Gaston led the Toronto Blue Jays to World Series wins. With those two seasons, he piloted the only team from outside the United States to a title, a distinction that is still in force today. At the same time, he also became the first African-American manager to win a championship. As of this writing, he's still the only one, but I suspect that distinction should be a short-lived one (Ron Washington might be a good bet to win a title, maybe even Dusty Baker).

Gaston was a late-season call-up with the Braves in 1967, where he was a roomate with Hank Aaron during road trips. When the Padres grabbed him in the expansion draft the next year, he became one of that team's original players. He didn't appear in their first game, but was their regular center fielder over the course of the season. 1970 was his breakout year, seeing him hit a personal best 29 home runs and hitting over .300 for the only time in his career. He was traded to Atlanta before the 1975 season and played for the Pirates in two games at the end of '78 before calling an end to his first career.

Gaston took the role of hitting coach for the Blue Jays beginning in 1982 and worked under both Bobby Cox and Jimy Williams there. As part of that coaching staff, he mentored a group of great if underrated hitters. I was living in Upstate New York during that time and one of my best friends was a rabid Blue Jays fan. While the team's exploits were often unknown outside of the area (except for 1985, when they took the A.L. East from the Yankees), you can bet that my buddy kept me informed about it. In 1989, he took over the skipper position when Williams was fired. The team was at 12-24 and in last place when he was promoted, but eventually won the division. In fact, the Jays took their division in four of Gaston's first five seasons.

He remained in the manager's position through 1997, and then took the team over again from 2008 through 2010. He was regarded as a "players' manager" when the team was winning, but derided as a "push-button" manager then the team wasn't doing so well. It's funny how fickle baseball fans and writers can be simply based on the W/L column.


  1. I look forward to this every MWF. Another great post.

  2. I was at Pearson Airport (Toronto) after midnight in 1994, waiting to pick up my dad who was coming from some late flight from the States. Alone in the waiting area, who should wander through but the entire '94 Blue Jays team, led by Cito Gaston. The thing that struck me was that Cito had this aura about him - he was one of the most in-control people I've ever seen. He radiated cool.

    Always liked Cito.

    One thing he was always criticized for as a manager was that he tended to stick to "his guys" too long. Worked great when they busted out of whatever slump they were in, looked awful when they didn't. A radio guy speculated that he did this because of what had happened to Cito the player, though I've never figured out precisely what that was. Maybe Cito figured, as he became a platoon player and eventually a bit part, that if someone had stuck with him, he'd have rediscovered 1970 again.