A man of true excellence, Clarence Edwin Gaston, affectionally known as Cito, was the first African American major league baseball player and skipper to lead his team to win a World Series. Rising above the fray, Cito spent his early years in deep south Texas, where blacks endured the heinous cruelty of racism. A product of Wheatly High school and Holy Cross High, the triple threat all-star athlete began his amateur baseball career with grit and focus with the Cardona Welders in San Antonio, Texas. The young scrappy Cito’s speed, strength, and power attracted the Milwaukee Braves to sign Cito to an amateur free agent contract in 1964. Cito was a force to be reckoned with; the young outfielder made his pro debut with the Binghamton Triplets in the New York-Penn League, where he would claim some success with several Class A teams. In 1968, Gaston had the opportunity to develop under Venezuelan general manager Magallanes, leading the league in hitting (.383) and (64 RBIs). According to Latin American baseball historians, Gaston is one of the first members of the Poder Negro-Black Power- era. Cito would have his first complete major-league season as a centerfielder with the San Diego Padres. In 1970, Gaston would play with the big leagues best for the National League in the All-Star Game; that year, he played in 146 games, hit 29 homers, drove 93 runs, with (.318 hitting avg). Alongside roommate Hank Aaron, Cito was a rising star player. Cito learned to conquer his mind over the body and his work ethic through nagging injures, which would produce much of his success.
For the love of the game, Hank Aaron would help Gaston define his next chapter as a coach in 1981. After spending time as the Atlanta Braves minor-league hitting instructor, Cito would join the Toronto Blue Jays as the batting coach. The Blue Jays would win their first division title in 1985 with Cito’s hitting influence. Gaston’s mentorship developed George Bell, Jesse Barfield, Llyod Moseby, and Willie Upshaw. In 1989, he would get the opportunity to lead the club as the interim manager, the fourth black manager in major league history. After some convincing, Gaston would take the reins and steered the Blue Jays to a 77-49 record scoring the AL’s Eastern Division title. He was able to take individual superstars and mold them into a dynamic team. After a winning run in game six, Gaston’s leadership would bring the Blue Jays to win back-to-back World Series in ’92 & ’93 (the Blue Jays’ first World Series titles). Gaston’s even-keel management style created a championship environment that developed players and drew an enormous dedicated fan-based. He would be the fourth man honored in the Blue Jays Level of Excellence and his entry into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002. Success is measured not only by the number of wins but also by your impact on those you serve as their leader. Cito has an impeccable reputation as a servant, composed, and inspiring leader who develops their skill set and character.