There’s been a sadness in the air in Blue Jays nation over the past few days, as Cito Gaston was not voted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday via the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee. Instead Jim Leyland, who took three franchises to the postseason and led the Florida Marlins to the 1997 World Series title, was elected.
Cito got less than 5 votes out of 16; 12 were needed for election of those under consideration whose primary contribution to the game came from 1980 to the present. That’s a disappointment for the now-79-year-old Blue Jays legend, who led the team to 894 wins and a .516 winning percentage in his 12 seasons as manager, which included back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993.
The reaction in Toronto was downbeat, with former players like Jesse Barfield and the host of the Blair & Barker show on Sportsnet590, Jeff Blair, capturing the mood of most Blue Jays fans in their tweets below.
Barfield credits his former hitting coach Gaston with helping him work on finishing his swing and proper weight transfer by hitting through the baseball without lunging. As his hitting coach from 1982-1988, Gaston helped Jesse slug 172 home runs and 507 RBI, and slash .268/.338/.487/.825, with an OPS+ of 120.
Jim Leyland managed the Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers to
1769 wins and a .506 winning percentage over 22 seasons. That included three trips to the World Series, including the 1997 championship with the Marlins, and with the Tigers in 2006 and 2012.
The excellent Cooperstowner in Canada editor, Kevin Glew, spoke with former Blue Jays third baseman Rance Mulliniks before the vote. Mulliniks knew Gaston as both his hitting coach and manager, with a .280/.365/.424/.790 slashline and 114 OPS+ over 11 seasons and 3470 plate appearances in Toronto.
Mulliniks said, “In my opinion, it’s been long overdue for him. I most certainly hope he gets in based on what he accomplished. He won back-to-back World Series and then there’s the historical side of it, he is the first African-American to manage a team to a world championship. That’s very significant.”
As Glew notes in this thread, ‘[Cito’s] not assured of returning to the ballot. The next time they will consider managers for the Contemporary Era Committee will be 2026. By then, Dusty Baker, Bruce Bochy and Terry Francona will all be strong candidates.’
Sportscaster Rod Black, who co-hosted CTV's pregame coverage of the 1992 and 1993 World Series, called Blue Jays games for what was then CTV Sportsnet from 1999 to 2000 alongside Joe Carter, and then on TSN from 2002 to 2009 with Pat Tabler, posted this a few days before the vote:
Other Blue Jays fans didn’t hold back, basically saying Cito was robbed. Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun tweeted that “The wait continues for Cito Gaston.” Others expressed consternation that the Hall of Fame and MLB perhaps disrespect the team because they play north of the US border?
Regardless, Blue Jays fans all know that a certain low key ‘Level of Excellence’ member deserves to be elected into the Hall. Along with former ace Dave Stieb, Cito Gaston is deserving of enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Hopefully the ongoing mystery of their exclusion will be solved in the years to come. So congratulations to Jim Leyland, but Jays fans believe Cito Gaston deserves to be there, too.