Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Baseball: Cito's Game

Cito Gaston retired a couple of days ago as the Toronto Blue Jays’ Manager. He announced his intention in August, but stayed with the game until the end of his tenure.

The towering Texan, now sixty-six years old, wants to spend a little quality time with his wife and family. Last week the Blue Jays had a fan appreciation night for Clarence Edwin Gaston at the Rogers Centre. It preceded the Jays’ last home game of the season. (Cito told Toronto broadcasters that he took the nickname from a Mexican-American wrestler he watched as a young man in Texas). His baseball card printed in 1971 lists him as “Clarence”, and that is how he signed his name on the front of the card!)

In the second last game that Cito managed in Toronto, he was frustrated by one of the quirky rules in baseball. There is a lane, well designated with solid white lines, that runs parallel to the first base line in foul territory. All runners from home plate must run in that lane to first base.

In the second inning, Yankees’ centre fielder Curts Granderson struck out on a pitch in the dirt. Jays’ catcher, John Buck, gathered up the ball and threw it to first base to record the out. Granderson ran all the way to first in fair territory, on the left hand side of the first base line (Most players also do that, ignoring the lane in foul territory.) Buck’s throw went past first baseman Lyle Overbay into right field. Granderson ran on to second base. Buck was charged with a throwing error.

In the sixth inning, the Jays’ young designated hitter, J. P. Arencibia, raced to first base on a ball that he had hit. It landed in front of home plate. The Yankees’ catcher, Jorge Posada, scooped up the ball and threw it to first base. The ball hit J. P. in the back. He was called out because he had not entered the special lane in foul territory while running to first.

Cito stormed from the dugout. It was apparent that he wanted justice. It was not to be found. In fact, home plate umpire tossed him from the game. It was his third ejection this season. (Several weeks previously, I asked Cito about getting thrown out of games. He smiled, and said: “It’s a little uncomfortable. It’s like being sent to your room for being bad.”)

After the game, Cito stated: “Whenever there is a situation like that, I have to go out and protect my players. I really didn’t say anything to get run out of the game. But the line to first is a crazy rule. There are a lot of crazy rules in baseball that need to be addressed.”

In essence, that is Cito Gaston, a baseball guy through and through. Most concerned about one of the goofy rules in baseball the night before the big celebration of his retirement.

Off and on, Gaston has spent almost two decades in a Blue Jays uniform. He started as a hitting coach in 1982. He began his playing career in 1967 for the Atlanta Braves. Following stints in San Diego and Atlanta, he finished with the Pirates in 1978. He had a banner year as an All Star in 1970. On the back of his card it states: “Clarence virtually rewrote the Padres’ record book last season.”

His friends came out to pay respects on his final night in Toronto. Sitting in the second base area before the game: Pat Hentgen, Joe Carter, Devon White, George Bell, Vernon Wells, Blue Jays’ brass Alex Anthopoulos, Paul Beeston, and Nadir Mohamed, and Linda Gaston.

A video clip brought greetings from a host of baseball buddies: Paul Molitor, Tony Fernandez, Dave Winfield, Roberto Alomar, Jack Morris, Gord Ash, Jose Bautista, Bobby Cox, Bud Selig, Dusty Baker, and Hank Aaron. Selig got the “Bronx Cheer”.

Not a dry eye in the house. The great crowd appreciated Cito’s contributions to the game, and to Toronto. Cito showed his colours when he began his address; “I know that we have a game to play.” In other words, thanks, everyone. Now let’s get on with it.

As a wonderful tribute, many of the Jays’ players sported moustaches as a tribute to their manager. Young slugger Travis Snider looked magnificent as he trotted around the bases, the first batter in the game for the Jays, sporting his cookie duster.

Enjoy the off season, Cito. See you in the Spring!

James Hurst
October 5, 2010

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