Signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1964, Cito Gaston would play 11 seasons in the majors. His finest campaign came with the San Diego Padres in 1970, when he hit .318 with 29 home runs and 93 RBIs, earning himself an all-star nod and team MVP award. After six seasons on the West Coast, Gaston was dealt to Atlanta, where he would toil for parts of four seasons, prior to finishing his big league playing career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 1981, Gaston joined the Braves as a minor league hitting instructor, before following manager, Bobby Cox, to Toronto to become the Blue Jays’ first full-time batting instructor the next year. He continued in that capacity until he replaced Jimy Williams as the club’s manager on May 15, 1989. Under Gaston’s laid back leadership, the club registered a major league-best 77-49 record and captured their second division title. His success as a rookie manager earned him Canadian Baseball Man of the Year honours from the Toronto and Montreal baseball writers.
Gaston would lead the Blue Jays to three more division titles and two World Series championships over the next four seasons. After his second Fall Classic triumph, he shared The Sporting News Sportsman of the Year award with GM Pat Gillick. Gaston would continue to manage until 1997, accumulating more than double as many wins as any other bench boss in Jays history. For his successes, his name was added to the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence at the Rogers Centre in 1999. After serving in various roles with the club – including hitting coach, guest coach and team ambassador – from 2000 to 2008, Gaston was rehired as Blue Jays field manager in June 2008. That same year, he was also honoured with the Jackie Robinson Award from the Negro League Baseball Hall of Fame for his outstanding career achievements.
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