Jays win in manager’s final home game

Cito Gaston’s unshakable and steadying hand has guided the Toronto Blue Jays through virtually every single high-point in franchise history.

Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Cito Gaston gets gatorade dumped on him by players Ricky Romero and Shaun Marcum during an interview following AL action against the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Cito Gaston gets gatorade dumped on him by players Ricky Romero and Shaun Marcum during an interview following AL action against the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

Blue Jays 8 Yankees 4

TORONTO — Cito Gaston’s unshakable and steadying hand has guided the Toronto Blue Jays through virtually every single high-point in franchise history.

Fans have watched him lead the way to four division titles and two World Series championships, and help players from George Bell to Jose Bautista thrive under his tutelage. On Wednesday, they saw something new from the retiring manager in his final home game — a tear.

The 66-year-old said goodbye before an adoring Rogers Centre crowd of 33,143, unable to fully keep his emotions in check during a moving 30-minute pre-game ceremony paying tribute to his career. His players then proceeded to honour him in their own way, pounding out three home runs to establish a new franchise record at 247 in an 8-4 victory over the New York Yankees.

With only a four-game series in Minnesota remaining before the 2010 season comes to a close, the Blue Jays pulled out all the stops for a “Thank You Cito” night, bringing back former stars George Bell, Pat Hentgen, Joe Carter and Devon White and compiling a video featuring Hank Aaron, Bobby Cox, Dusty Baker, Bud Selig, Roberto Alomar, Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor, among others.

Fans stood and applauded him over and over, as did the players from both clubs. Gaston looked to be fighting back his emotions throughout the ceremony, a single tear finally breaking free and streaming down his right cheek as he addressed the crowd.

“I could probably stand here and enjoy that a little longer,” Gaston said during one his standing ovations, “but we’ve got a baseball game to play.”

Team president Paul Beeston and Rogers Communications Inc. CEO Nadir Mohamed presented Gaston with four plane tickets anywhere in the world — Beeston joked that Gaston might even invite wife Linda if Carter didn’t get in the way — as well as a portrait by Vernon Wells Sr.

His son, centre-fielder Vernon Wells, thanked Gaston on behalf of the players, presented him with a gift and then told the crowd: “He rocks the moustache better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

That had the Blue Jays doubled over with laughter, and many of them, Wells included, took the field with eye-black on their upper lips as a sign of respect.

Travis Snider was rocking the faux moustache when he leadoff the first with a solo shot, his 13th homer of the season and the team’s 245th, breaking the mark of 244 set by the 2000 Blue Jays when Gaston was hitting coach.

John Buck added his 20th of the season in the second to make it a 2-0 game while Aaron Hill’s 26th, a three-run blast in the fifth, made it 6-0 and pushed the total to 247, good for fifth all time in big-league history.

Brett Cecil (15-7) allowed three runs in 5 1-3 innings to earn the win as the Blue Jays (82-76) capped their home season in style at 45-33. They finished with a total attendance of 1,625,555, their lowest total since drawing 1,275,978 in 1982.

Javier Vazquez (10-10) took the loss for the Yankees (94-65), who clinched a playoff spot Tuesday. Alex Rodriguez hit his 30th homer, giving him 14 seasons with 30 homers and 100 RBIs, 13 of them consecutively.

But the day belonged to Gaston.

He arrived at the Rogers Centre around 1:15 p.m., signed some autographs, met with well-wishers and chatted with his players, former and current.

The busy nature of his schedule kept things from really sinking in, he said during a 30-minute chat with media, during which he repeatedly thanked fans for their support and expressed his love for the city of Toronto and the Blue Jays organization.

“I’m cool, I’m OK. This is OK,” he said. “It’s not like I’m dead, it’s just that I’m moving on to do something else. I’m fine, everything is good.”

The 66-year-old served as Blue Jays hitting coach from 1982 until he was promoted — forcibly by Beeston — to manager after the firing of Jimy Williams in 1989. Gaston was in charge until his dismissal late in the ’97 season, returning in June 2008 when John Gibbons was fired.

His all-time record of 910-850 over two stints as manager isn’t bad for someone who was reluctant to take the job in the first place.

“I had Paul Beeston with a gun in my back saying go do it,” Gaston quipped. “I’m joking but I thank him for making me, and he absolutely said to me: ’You’re it, we want you to do that.’

“I said what about Al Widmar, what about John Sullivan, they’ve done this before. I’d never managed before in my life and I wasn’t afraid, but not knowing what to expect and believe me, you learn real quick that every day you walk in that door there’s a problem.”

Most have been handled well, but White couldn’t help but chuckle when asked for his favourite Gaston memory. He brought up an infamous 1991 incident when Gaston came out to pull David Wells from a game, and unhappy left-hander threw the ball down the left-field line, leading to a scuffle between the two under the stands.

“That’s the first time we ever saw Cito go berserk, crazy, but that’s one of our favourites,” said White. “At that time, he had the bad back, it was like ’Cito, what are you going to do? You can’t do anything.’ It was pretty funny that he still had that kind of rage.”

Such incidents have been few and far between, and Hentgen said most players thrived under Gaston.

“Cito basically had two rules: You be on time, you play hard,” he said. “If you can’t go by those rules, you have issues. Sometimes less is more.”

Though Gaston is leaving the dugout, he’ll remain with the club as an adviser for the next four years.

“It’s a lot different because I’m leaving on my own terms this time,” he said. “It’s not too often you get a chance to go out this way. Usually they just tell you don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out. …

“And I’m still not leaving, I’ll be around for another four years so, it’s not like hey, that’s it, it’s all over and done, I’ll just be doing different things.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Most Read