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OAKLAND, CA - MAY 10: Manager Cito Gaston #43 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game on May 10, 2009 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images) (Jed Jacobsohn/2009 Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 10: Manager Cito Gaston #43 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game on May 10, 2009 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images) (Jed Jacobsohn/2009 Getty Images)

Blue Jays

Cito rules the roost Add to ...

But it doesn't end there because Gaston still feels the need to explain something that probably shouldn't require explaining.

"When people have a tendency to treat you a little differently, then whether they're racist or not, that's the first thing going through your mind because you're used to that happening to you. I can remember earlier this year and being in a hotel. I came back from working out and I was on the concierge floor. I thought I'd go in and get myself a bottle of water. Well, I was questioned about whether I lived on that floor or not. So things still happen like that. And I guarantee you that if I was white, I wouldn't be questioned at all. I see it all the time. It still happens… So when I see things happen or people say stuff, I'm more likely to ask is it because of race or is it because they don't like me? I would rather it be because they don't like me, not because of the colour of my skin. But there's not too many black guys who can go around to this day and say there's no racism, because there still is."

So back to what he said: "I believed it then."

He got a call two days after his firing, from the Kansas City Royals, asking him if he wanted to be their hitting coach. What he wanted was another shot at managing a big-league club. The phone rang occasionally. There were interviews. "How do you interview a manager?" he wonders. "I'd really like to know that one. What do you look for when you interview a manager?"

No job offer came, until the Jays, with new manager Buck Martinez, invited him back as the hitting coach in 2001. Gaston took the job, deciding that he could go home again, even in a subordinate role, and then was fired along with the entire staff a year later by the team's new general manager, J.P. Ricciardi. The back-to-the-future approach had failed. The franchise was headed in a different direction.

After that, Gaston admits that he lost much of his burning desire to manage again. He started turning down interviews, especially if he thought he was being used as a token minority candidate. "I wasn't looking any more," he says. "I had come to the conclusion that I would just keep doing what I'd been doing [in a consulting role for the Jays] I was travelling, playing golf, doing stuff with my grandkids every year, taking them on a trip or they'd come visit me. I was trying to pay back some of that time to my grandkids that I didn't give to my own kids. I had a great life."

Ricciardi, Gaston says, called him every once in a while, took his temperature, asked him if he ever thought about managing again. Last June he called again, when Gaston was out, left a message, said he wanted to ask him a question.

"He's probably going to ask me to come back and be the hitting coach," Gaston figured.

When they finally connected, Ricciardi offered him the manager's job. Unlike 1989, Gaston accepted immediately.

"You answered him awfully quickly," his wife, Linda, said.

"He's been asking me for three years," Gaston said. "I'd be going back on my word if I didn't do that. And besides that, what's better than coming back to a place that you love, a city that you love being in?"

Because Beeston was also back as the team's interim president, because the Jays were in the midst of another lost season, Gaston's hiring seemed to some a nostalgia play, and perhaps a cynical one at that - a kind of human shield, a happy reminder of how it once was to temporarily placate the fans.

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