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Toronto Blue Jays: The End Of Clarence

Illustration for article titled Toronto Blue Jays: The End Of Clarence

Will Leitch will be previewing/musing on every baseball team each weekday until the start of the season. You can pre-order his book and follow him on Twitter. Today: The Toronto Blue Jays.

This is going to be the last season as a Major League manager for Cito Gaston, one of baseball's more peculiar, quietly fascinating characters. He's grumpy, he's cantankerous and he's a winner. I've never quite understood why Gaston, who has won two World Series, as many as Tony LaRussa and more than Bobby Cox and new Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog, isn't considered a more prestigious baseball figure. He has been in the game for 46 years, succeeding as a player and a manager, hitting 29 homers for the 1970 San Diego Padres and barely missing, by one day at the end of the 1990 season, winning five division titles in a row. He's a great baseball character, and as he enters his final go-around in the dugout — he's taking on a "consultant's role" after this year — I thought it might be worthwhile to look at 10 Cool Cito Gaston Facts.

1. His roommate and best friend when he came into the Majors in 1967 was Hank Aaron. He credits Aaron with teaching him how to tie a tie.


2. His real name is Clarence Gaston, and it's actually how the name appears on his early baseball cards. He took the name "Cito" because he was a fan of a lucha libre wrestler with that name while growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas.

3. When the Blue Jays fired Jimy Williams as manager in 1989 and offered the job to Gaston, the team's hitting coach, he turned it down. "I was happy working as the hitting instructor," Gaston said. His players talked him into taking over, and the run of four division titles in five years began.

4. The championships in 1992 and 1993 made him the first — and to this day, only — African-American manager to win a World Series, with considerably less fanfare than Tony Dungy's Super Bowl victory three years ago.

5. The Blue Jays signed free agent Roger Clemens before the 1997 season, and Clemens and Gaston famously clashed. (Later, Gaston would say, "He's a complete asshole.") After that season, Gaston told management he was taking a vacation directly after the season, daring management to fire him. They obliged.


6. Before he left, Gaston had a heated feud with radio personality Bob McCown, who claimed Gaston called him a racist. After Gaston leveled the charge, McCown met with Gaston and general manager Gord Ash. McCown says he offered a detailed statement to explain himself to Gaston, saying the manager had turned the broadcaster's life upside down with his charge, and, according to McCown, Gaston said, "If you aren't a racist I apologize. If you are, I don't." The two men have not spoken since. Gaston is famous for his holding of grudges.


7. Surprisingly, Gaston, a manager who had won two World Series, was unable to find another managerial job. (He lost out on the Detroit job to Phil Garner and the Chicago White Sox job to Ozzie Guillen.) He spent most of the 2000s working for the Blue Jays still, as a hitting coach for two years (before being fired again) and team consultant, occasionally filling in on television broadcasts.

8. After John Gibbons was fired five games into the 2008 season, the Blue Jays gave Gaston his old job back, 15 years after he had won his last title. He did not prove popular with the players in the clubhouse; during his breakthrough season, second baseman Aaron Hill led a clubhouse revolt against him. "Everyone here feels the same way about him," Hill said at the time.


9. In response to the frustration, the Blue Jays helped ease Gaston out the door — again — with a sweetheart consultant gig and a promise to let him go gracefully into "retirement." Gaston said, "I do things my way." The Blue Jays have not reached the playoffs since Gaston's two championships.

10. This is not actually Cito Gaston:

This is:

Find more fun Gaston — or "Black Dad" — love right here.

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