Gaston’s contributions left mark on game
Cito Gaston will never be forgotten north of the border for his role in leading the Blue Jays to back-to-back World Series titles in 1992-93. He won’t be forgotten in the history books either.
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Gaston did his part in breaking down baseball’s color barrier when he became the first African-American manager to win the World Series in 1992. Prior to that, a black manager never brought his club and jerseys MLB wholesale to the World Series, let alone came away with youth jerseys and the top prize.
The former big league outfielder never hesitated to speak out on racial issues throughout his career. He had to after growing up in the 1950s and ’60s and experiencing some of the injustices first hand, but when it came to his managerial and leadership style during that infamous run, it was his paternal instincts that took over more than anything else.
“It’s not easy dealing with 25 different guys, different characters,” longtime Blue Jays infielder Tony Fernandez once said when speaking of Gaston. “He had a father-like approach coaching style. And to me, those are the kinds of coaches who have more success with their players.”
Gaston secured his lasting legacy with the Blue Jays by winning the World Series, but the reality is, it almost never happened. The native of Texas initially did not view himself as a manager and had to be talked into taking the job when Jimy Williams was fired in May 1989. At the time, Gaston had been the club’s hitting instructor since 1982, and he had very little desire to change roles.
Lengthy conversations with Paul Beeston, Tigers manager Sparky Anderson and urging from his players helped changed Gaston’s mind, and the success was almost immediate. Toronto was 12-24 at the time of Williams’ departure, but under Gaston, the Blue Jays went 77-49 the rest of the way to win the American League East title. Following a second-place finish in 1990, Toronto won the division again in ’91, before winning the World Series in ’92 and ’93.
With one out, Dylan Cozens reached on an error by shortstop Richard Urena. Blue Jays starter Joe Biagini (1 2/3 innings, two unearned runs on two hits, one walk, three strikeouts) struck out catcher Ryan Hanigan, walked Brock Stassi and came out of the game. Right-hander Justin Shafer then hit Taylor Featherston with a pitch to load the bases.
One run scored when Cameron Perkins hit a ground ball to shortstop. Urena bobbled it, but Perkins was credited with a hit when Perkins beat the throw. Urena was charged with another error when he didn’t cleanly handle a grounder by J.P. Crawford, allowing Stassi to score the second run.
“We couldn’t catch the ball. [Urena] had a tough day, but he’s not going anywhere,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “He’s going to be a good one. And Jose Bautista, I thought, looked good [2-for-3 with a double]. Russell Martin looked good. Morales hit his first home run as a Blue Jay. So as painful as that game was, there were a couple good things in there.”
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Before the inning ended, Featherston crossed the plate on Shafer’s wild pitch.
Andres Blanco hit a solo shot for the Phillies off Mat Latos in the third, then the Phillies broke the game open with three runs in the sixth. Nick Williams drove in a pair in the inning with a single.
Rowdy Tellez, whom Gibbons has referred to numerous times this spring as the organizational prospect who is probably the closest to being big league-ready, is more than just a bat. He showed that in the fifth inning by stealing second base.
“I’ve always been told I was slow,” he said. “But to be a complete player, you have to do everything. You have to steal bases, you have to play defense with cheap jerseys.”
Hall of Famer Tim Raines, who works with the Blue Jay as a roving outfield and baserunning instructor, told Gibbons he’s been impressed with his instincts on the bases.
“The guy can hit,” Gibbons said of Tellez. “He’s not going to steal a lot of bases, but he’ll surprise you at times. It’s kind of interesting. I was talking to [Raines] the other day and asked him what kind of baserunner Rowdy was. And he said he might be the best in the system. I mean, he’s not a fast guy. But that tells you something about him and china jerseys. He’s a complete player. He’s a talented kid.”
Third baseman Josh Donaldson, who strained his right calf during the first workout of the spring, threw in the outfield before Monday’s game. Although he appeared to have a slight limp, it was the first time he’s thrown on the field, which can be taken as a sign of progress.