The Greatest Day of the Year

If you’re like me and you love gambling, drinking, and paying homage to respectful, distinguished, and beautiful retired gentlemen, then this is the day for you!

Yes friends, it is a triple threat day!

First, one of the most exciting sporting events of the year kicks off today – March Madness.  I don’t really like basketball, I’m not a big fan of US college sports, but I love this tournament.  Why?  Because I love betting on it.  Filling out brackets, buying countless pro-line tickets, and then ripping them all up when my “surprise team” bows out meekly in the first round.  Does it get any better than that?

Well, actually, yes it does.  Because this year the kick-off day of the NCAA tournament just happens to fall on March 17th – St. Patrick’s Day.  Today is the day when everybody is Irish, when green beer, Guinness, and Irish Car Bombs flow like honey from a golden spoon.

But baseball fans should do more than just get violently drunk today – we should take a minute to remember the impact the Irish had on the game we love.  According to Baseball-Almanac there have been 42 Irish-born players in major league history, pure Irish names like Collins, Doyle, McManus, Muldoon, O’Connor, and O’Neill.  Sure most of them played at a time when baseball was in its infancy (pre-1900) but without them the game might not be the same as it is today.  So tilt a glass for Paddy O’Connor and Jimmy Walsh this afternoon.

There is also an Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame, founded in 2008, in Foley’s NY Pub in New York  City.  Some of the great names in baseball are honoured here, including Connie Mack, Tug McGraw, Mark McGwire, Vin Scully, and new this year, Yankees GM Brian Cashman.  Might be a good place to enjoy a Guinness in the future.

But perhaps the biggest reason to celebrate today has nothing to do with the Irish, for despite being born on the most Irish of days, this man is not from Ireland.  On this day in 1944, the most iconic, successful, respected, and beloved manager in Blue Jays history (in my opinion at least) was born in San Antonio.

Cito Gaston turns 67 years old today, and even though my Blue Jays excitement level is at its all-time highest this year, things do seem a bit weird without him.  He has pretty much been a part of the Blue Jays since 1982 when he was hired as the hitting coach.  His success in tutoring young hitters like George Bell, Lloyd Moseby, and Jesse Barfield helped lead him to the managers chair in 1989, where he won two World Series.  He was fired in ’97 but returned as the hitting coach again from 1999 – 2001, then as a special assistant to the CEO from 2002 until his return as manager in ’08.  Helping to morph Jose Bautista from a journeyman wanderer to a 50 HR hitter might be his greatest ever accomplishment.

Cito has been criticized by many over the years for his managerial decisions.  Yes he has made mistakes, and yes he may have been stubborn at times, but to many he WAS the Toronto Blue Jays.  Always full of grace, class, and dignity, Cito was a great leader.

So today I will drink a Guinness to honour the birthday of the man, the myth, the moustache, Cito Gaston.  Happy birthday Cito!

Now – let the gambling and drinking begin!

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