Stephen Brunt wrote up a really nice piece on Cito in the Globe and Mail, who have undated the look of their web site, looks much better, a lot cleaner. Go read it, but I thought I'd note a couple of things.
Cito is clearly the nicest man on the face of the earth and despite what Leo Durocher wrote, nice guys don't always finish last. I think there is a great book in Cito's life story. He was a teammate of Hank Aaron's, he has experianced the worst of racism, has been a superior batting coach and won two World Series as a manager.
Anyway in the story, Cito says:
Though the slings and arrows and slights are not forgotten at 65, Gaston right now is serene. “I don't let too many things upset me,” he says during a long, informal conversation. “A lot of things you can't do anything about it in this game. I think I'm more calm even than I was before – with the press, certainly with umpires. I'm just more calm.”
As someone that watched him his time as manager, I can barely imagine he could be more calm than before without being in a coma. If you had to use one word to describe Cito, calm might be the best one. We may occasionally want him to be more animated, but it isn't going to happen so we should just deal with it.
“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.”
That must be a tough way to live life wondering if everything that is said is because of the color of your skin.
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?
Interesting to hear that JP talked to him occasionally, asking if he wanted to manage again. I've read a lot of people say that Cito was forced on JP, but clearly, at least in Cito's mind, JP wanted him all along.
But that flicker of success, that intimation of a pennant race has also restarted the kind of baseball conversation that's been dormant almost since Gaston left town: Why is the slumping Vernon Wells still hitting fourth? Why are players' days off sacrosanct? Why was rookie Brett Cecil left in to get pounded on Wednesday night? Why does Gaston seem happy to often let the game take care of itself? He is managing, he explains, as he always has, according to the strengths and weaknesses of his roster, still aware of what it felt like to be a player. “I want to win really badly, and we want to play well, and if we win, we win,”
I do think it is a lot to hope that people won't question your moves as manager. I mean, the man has been in baseball for like 50 years, he knows that second guessing the manager is part of the fun of baseball. And we aren't going to stop, so he might want to get used to it.
I do care if we win. I want to win. But I think I've finally realized this is fun. I want to have fun winning.
Boy I like this. I'm glad he is having fun. Folks, as much as baseball is important to us all and more important to him for sure. but at it is a game. Games should be fun. That's something I worry about with Halladay, he doesn't seem to be having fun out there. I know it is his job and all but, it is a kids game, smile a bit.
Anyway it is a great piece. Mr. Brunt is a really good writer.