After 11 years, multiple playoff appearances, and a World Series in 2016 that came down to Game 7, extra innings, a rain delay, and finally disappointment, Cleveland Guardians manager Tito Francona is stepping down and retiring. While Tito has not made the official announcement, his retirement is the biggest open secret in the world, and the Guardians organization and fans made sure how much he was appreciated at his last home game at Progressive Field on September 28th against the Cincinnati Reds.
One of my coworkers had a bleacher ticket he was unable to use that night, and he was kind enough to let me have it, so I headed up to Cleveland after work. Despite the traffic of so many fans and the fun of trying to find a parking spot that wouldn’t break the bank, I was able to get into the stadium during the second inning of the game. The Guardians won it for Tito, 4-3, taking the Ohio Cup from the Reds in the process.
The emotion of saying goodbye to Tito was offset by the silliness and drama of the final Sugardale Hot Dog Derby. With Mustard and Ketchup tied at 27 wins each and Onion right behind them at 26, there would be either one champion or three tonight. Mustard broke from the pack and looked like a shoe-in for the win, but, right out of the WWE, an unknown assailant literally clotheslined Mustard at the finish line, giving Ketchup the win and the title. Said assailant was revealed to be Bally Sports Great Lakes broadcaster Andre Knott, who, if you will, has had beef with Mustard for some time. I suspect this story isn’t over, and Knott may want to watch his back next season.
While I was far from the Guardians dugout sitting in the bleachers, I could still see Tito after the game as he took one last curtain call. Jose Ramirez apparently blocked the dugout steps to ensure Tito couldn’t escape, allowing his teammates and the fans to show their appreciation for all Tito has done for Cleveland. I’ve heard that Tito will move into a front office role with the Guardians after this season, so he will stay involved with the team and the city for years to come.
A few days earlier, Tito was a guest on The Athletic Baseball Show. Like a lot of old school baseball personalities, Tito had some great stories to tell from his years managing both Boston and Cleveland, resulting in an incredible interview. Check it out below.
Drop a comment below if you were at the game or if you have your own Tito story to tell.