Growing up under the torrid rays of Corpus Christi, Texas, there was never a mistake for Cito Gaston with sun-stolen fly balls.
As an All-Star outfielder with the Padres, the friendly Southern California sun never got to the current Toronto Blue Jays manager. In the dead of summer, Gaston can't remember giving in to the Atlanta sun.
As a lifetime outfielder, Gaston swears he never lost a ball in the sun. But in the final two games - both Blue Jays losses - in a three-game set with the Yankees, Gaston's Blue Jays twice lost game-changing fly balls in the sun. The failed stabs, Saturday by leftfielder Josh McDonald and Sunday by centerfielder DeWayne Wise, were the two most memorable gaffes in each of the Yankees' 11-3 and 7-6 victories over the holiday weekend. Perhaps two of the more memorable gaffes committed by Yankees opponents this year.
Even if Gaston's own memory is void of such mishaps.
"To me, I don't think I've lost a ball in the sun," Gaston, 66, said Sunday in the visitors' clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. "I was taught to get on the side of the ball. And it's always come up for me."
It didn't come up for Wise on Sunday. In what will be remembered as the more meaningful muff because of its role in a back-and-forth 10-inning contest, Wise failed to catch a routine Brett Gardner pop fly in dead centerfield, resulting in an easy three-run inside-the-park home run for Gardner, which tied the game at 5 in the sixth.
Technically, Wise attributed what Gaston referred to as an error (even though it was not scored as such) to the straight angle he took backward on the ball in straightaway center, he failed to shield the sun from his eyes and ended up falling to the ground as the ball ticked off his glove.
"If I would have had to go to my left or right, I would have been fine," Wise said. "Just at that moment of that game where the sun was right above my head and it started coming directly down. And in the last 15 feet, it never came out."
By the time Wise - who was wearing sunglasses, unlike McDonald on Saturday - retrieved the ball behind him and fired it to the infield, Gardner was upright at home. The Yankees were back in it. The damage had been done, despite Wise's heroics including a fifth-inning three-run homer and a ninth-inning RBI single against Mariano Rivera to send the game into extra innings. Wise also had two outfield assists in the fifth inning, both when Yankees baserunners were cut down at the plate.
Wise, hitting .240 with seven RBIs in 14 games this season, is probably best known for his dead-sprint, cardiac catch in centerfield against the outfield wall on July 23 last year to save Mark Buehrle's perfect game for the White Sox.
Sunday, it appeared easier. There was no thud into the wall. No dead sprint. No perfect game on the line.
"I did everything I could to try to catch that ball," Wise said. "Things like this happen and we just have to move forward."