The Cito Gaston era brought better days for Blue Jays fans

The manager's job opened up for Cito Gaston just as it always does in baseball — somebody got fired.

Longtime Toronto coach became manager and went on to lead franchise to greatest-ever success

The Jays get a new manager in 1989

33 years ago
Duration 0:33
In May 1989, the Blue Jays fired manager Jimy Williams and replaced him with Cito Gaston.

The manager's job opened up for Cito Gaston just as it always does in baseball — somebody else got fired.

On May 15, 1989, the Blue Jays fired Jimy Williams after the team had put together a 12-24 record.

General Manager Pat Gillick said the team had high hopes when Williams took the job three seasons earlier.

"We thought Jimy was maturing as a manager, we thought that he was fitting into the [manager's] seat very well, but sometimes the best-laid plans, they don't work out," he told reporters after firing Williams.

To fill the manager's job, the team looked to Gaston to take over on an interim basis.

Will Cito stay?

Will Cito Gaston stick as manager?

33 years ago
Duration 1:13
Marty York talks to Midday about the odds of Cito Gaston taking on the Jays' manager job on a permanent basis.

Gaston had been the team's hitting coach since 1982 and was well-liked by players. And after one day on the job, the team was 1-0 under his watch.

But some doubted he'd be able to hang onto his new role for very long.

"I think Cito is a capable man. He does command the respect of the players — I think he can motivate them — he knows baseball and I would like to see them remove that interim tag," sports journalist Marty York told CBC's Midday the day after Gaston had been named manager.

"But from my understanding, the only way they're going to do that is if he should win every game during his stint as interim manager. I don't think that's going to happen."

The Toronto Star was just as bleak in its assessment. The paper reported the Jays would name a permanent manager within 10 days but said "Gaston isn't on the short list of candidates."

By the end of April, the team announced Gaston would be keeping his job until the end of the season.

'No sense in worrying'

'No sense' in worrying about the past

33 years ago
Duration 0:29
Cito Gaston seemed unfazed by the pressure as the Jays chased a playoff bid near the end of the 1989 season.

The Jays under Gaston, in fact, would continue to improve through the 1989 season. And as the end got closer — with a possible, but still uncertain playoff bid in sight — the pressure didn't seem to be getting to their manager.

Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, (foreground), and infielders Tom Lawless (left) and Rance Mulliniks watch from the dugout in the final moments of American League Championship Series game Wednesday, Oct. 5, 1989 in Oakland. (Eric Risberg/Associated Press)

"There's no sense in worrying about things that are in the past ... being concerned about 'em is only going to cause you a problem as far as worrying about 'em," Gaston told CBC, just a few days before the season wrapped.

"To me, at this time of year, you want to just stay as relaxed as you possibly can and not worry about things that happened two days ago or last night because that's over with and you can't do anything about it." 

Toronto finished with an 89-73 record, winning the division on the second-last game of the regular-season schedule. 

And that meant the Jays would play in their first playoff series in four years.

The Blue Jays wouldn't make it to the World Series that year, as the Oakland Athletics defeated them in just five games in the American League Championship Series.

But the Jays would make repeated and highly memorable trips to the post-season in the years to come.

2 World Series championships

Cito Gaston, shown in front right-hand corner, is seen celebrating the second Blue Jays' second World Series win in 1993. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

From 1991 to 1993, the Jays would win three further division titles under Gaston. The team also won back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993.

Toronto Blue Jays newly-appointed manager Cito Gaston watches warmups before a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh Friday, June 20, 2008. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

Gaston would continue to manage the Jays until the last week of the 1997 season. 

He made a comeback in 2008, when he took on his old job after John Gibbons, then in his own first stint as a big-league manager, was fired by the Jays

The team was 35-39 when Gaston took over. They finished their season with an 86-76 record.

Just like the first time around, Gaston was hired on an interim basis. But he would end up managing the team through the end of the 2010 season.

His career record as Blue Jays manager through two stints and 1,764 games stands at 913-851, according to statistics listed on the team's website.

To date, no other manager has taken a Blue Jays team to the World Series and no one has spent more games — or won more games — as the Toronto bench boss than Gaston has.