Reggie on hand for Gaston's Bronx finale

Reggie on hand for Gaston's Bronx finale

NEW YORK -- While Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston spoke with reporters before Sunday's series finale in the Bronx, a Yankees legend and special advisor to New York, Reggie Jackson, sneaked into the manager's office and sat quietly on the couch.

Gaston was asked about what it will be like managing at Yankee Stadium for what could be the last time. He chuckled when it was suggested he might scoop some infield dirt as a keepsake.

"Dirt? No," Gaston said. "The only thing I might get is Reggie's autograph."

With that, Gaston looked at his old friend and smiled. They proceeded to reminisce for half an hour about their memories of the game, their favorite unheralded players, and the one winter they shared as teammates, in 1967, on an instructional league team in Arizona. Toronto had lost the first game of that crucial four-game series, 7-5.

"It was probably the quietest bus I've ever been on in my life going back to the hotel," Gaston said. "And then we weren't quite able to ever reach the hotel -- we had to get out and walk a few blocks because of construction. But the guys came back and we won the next three ballgames. That showed me what kind of heart we had on that club."

Gaston wistfully listed other recognizable home runs hit by his players over the years in New York. On Sunday, he dug even deeper into his vast memory reservoir -- 43 years deep, when he was a young outfielder in the Braves' organization. He arrived in Arizona that winter and met a 21-year-old Jackson.

Jackson, then with the Kansas City Athletics' organization, was two years younger than Gaston, who had already played three years of professional baseball at the time. Jackson was asked if he learned anything from Gaston.

"He's the Hall of Famer," Gaston interrupted. "What'd he teach me?"