October 20, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Legendary Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston is one of eight former managers, executives or umpires on the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Contemporary Baseball Era Committee ballot that was announced on Thursday.
It is the first time that the two-time World Series-winning skipper has appeared on a Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot for consideration.
On December 3, a 16-member Hall of Fame Board-appointed voting committee will review and debate Gaston’s case for Cooperstown, along with the cases for the seven other candidates, at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. Gaston will require 75 percent support (or 12 of 16 votes) to be elected.
The voting results will be announced that same night on the MLB Network’s “MLB Tonight” at 7:30 p.m. E.T.
On the ballot alongside Gaston are former managers Davey Johnson, Jim Leyland and Lou Piniella, ex-umpires Ed Montague and Joe West and longtime executives Hank Peters and Bill White.
To be eligible for this ballot, managers and umpires had to have worked 10 or more major league seasons and been retired for at least five years. The executives also had to be retired for at least five years.
It’s been a long time coming for Gaston to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot, despite the fact that he managed the Blue Jays to four division titles and two World Series championships during his tenure with the club.
Signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1964, Gaston played 11 seasons in the majors. He had stops with the San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates before his playing career ended in 1978.
Begins with Blue Jays as coach
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. Gaston continued in that capacity until he replaced Jimy Williams as the club’s manager on May 15, 1989.
Under Gaston’s leadership, the club registered a major league-best 77-49 record over the course of the rest of the 1989 season 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.
World Series-winning manager
Gaston would lead the Blue Jays to three more division titles and two World Series championships over the next four seasons. In 1992, he became the first African-American manager in major league history to lead a team to a World Series title.
After his second Fall Classic triumph in 1993, Gaston shared The Sporting News Sportsman of the Year award with GM Pat Gillick.
Gaston’s first tenure as Blue Jays manager would continue until 1997. For his successes, his name was added to the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence at Rogers Centre in 1999 and he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.
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 honoured with the Jackie Robinson Award from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum for his outstanding career achievements.
During his second tenure with the Blue Jays, he managed the club through the 2010 season. He finished with 894 wins as Blue Jays manager — the most in franchise history.
Some online reaction to the Hall of Fame ballot nod for Gaston:
From the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Release
“The Contemporary Baseball Era Committee for managers/executives/umpires is one of three groups eligible for consideration as part of the Era Committee process, which provides an avenue for Hall of Fame consideration to managers, umpires and executives, as well as players retired for more than 15 seasons. The Contemporary Baseball Era features two distinct ballots: One for managers, executives and umpires (considered this fall) and one for players (to be considered next in the fall of 2025).
Following the restructuring of the Era Committee process in the spring of 2022, the two Contemporary Baseball Era ballots were instituted, along with the Classic Baseball Era, which includes all candidates whose primary contribution to the game came prior to 1980. The Classic Baseball Era Committee will meet for the first time in the fall of 2024. The eight Contemporary Baseball Era manager/executive/umpire finalists were selected by the BBWAA-appointed Historical Overview Committee from all eligible candidates among players whose most significant career impact was realized since 1980.”