September 30, 2010
For most retirement ceremonies, an excellent Donruss Diamond Kings-looking portrait painted by the center fielder's father would qualify as the best tribute.
But for Cito Gaston's farewell in Toronto on Wednesday night, the fine work completed by Vernon Wells Sr. took a back seat to what Travis Snider(notes) and a few of his Blue Jays teammates conjured up. After an emotional pregame ceremony and before the start of Gaston's last home game, the players used eye black to draw Cito-style mustaches on their faces.
They took the field against the New York Yankees wearing them and when Snider led off the bottom of the first inning, he channeled the power of the 'stache for a solo shot. It was the first strike off Yanks pitcher Javier Vazquez(notes) in an 8-4 victory. It was also the team's 245th homer of the season, a franchise record and the fifth-highest team total in baseball history.
The night at Rogers Centre, however, was all about Gaston, who won back-to-back World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992 and '93. Snider was 4 years old during the first title season, but he was happy to honor the manager who came back to manage the Blue Jays in 2008 and has 891 career victories in 12 total seasons with the team.
"I couldn't think of a better night for it to happen, to honor him," Snider said. [...] "Tonight was his night."
While his teammates washed their mustaches off early in the game, Snider wore the eye black on his upper lip for two more at-bats. He went 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs with the faux fuzz.
What a twist. Usually it's the fans in the stands who wear fake beards and mustaches to honor their favorites — think Brian Wilson at AT&T Park — but to see athletes on a field doing it? Well, it was a fun and memorable way to honor Gaston's normally stoic fashion.
I also have to say that it's great that baseball and the Blue Jays let it occur. Think the NFL — the No Fun League — would have ever allowed something similar? There's no way.
Thankfully, baseball always has its own sense of humor. Long live Cito and his 'stache.