Bob Watson

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Robert Jose Watson

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Biographical Information[edit]

Bob Watson had a 19-year major league career in which he hit .295. He would likely have hit even higher had he not played half of his career for the Houston Astros in a park friendly to pitchers, and had he not come up during a dead-ball era when league batting averages were low. He was originally a catcher, and played 10 games at the position over his career, but mainly played in the outfield and at first base in the majors. In 1969, he suffered a broken finger trying to catch Jim Bouton's knuckleball in the bullpen in early September, knocking him out for the rest of the year, an episode narrated in Ball Four. A slow line-drive hitter with middling power (he hit between 11 and 18 home runs 8 times, but topped 20 only once - though his SLG was far higher on the road than at home), he was a good hitter for average who would also draw his share of walks. He obtained nation-wide publicity in 1975 when he scored what was billed as the one millionth run in baseball history. He was also the first player to hit a cycle in both the American and National Leagues, accomplishing the feat with Houston on June 24, 1977 and later with the Boston Red Sox on September 15, 1979. Two other players have joined him since, John Olerud and Michael Cuddyer.

Watson hit as high as .324 with Houston in 1974, as high as .337 with Boston in a partial season in 1979, as high as .307 with the New York Yankees in 1980, and as high as .309 as a back-up with the Atlanta Braves in 1983. He had a great postseason in 1981, after an injury-plagued year during which he only hit .212 in 59 games. He went 7 for 16 (.438) in the Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, added three hits in the Yankees' sweep of the Athletics in the ALCS, then went 7 for 22 (.318) with 2 home runs and 7 RBI in the World Series, which the Yankees lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 6 games. The Yankees traded him away to the Atlanta Braves three weeks into the 1982 season, after some free agent signings over the winter had made him redundant. The return for the Yankees was a minor league pitcher named Scott Patterson, who would go on to greater fame as an actor, starring on the television series Gilmore Girls and the 1994 baseball film Little Big League. In Atlanta, he was used primarily as a pinch-hitter and as a back-up to Chris Chambliss, the man he had replaced as the Yankees' regular first baseman in 1980, retiring after the 1984 season. A two-time All-Star, Bob was also twice in the top five in the league in RBI.

After his playing career ended, Watson was an Oakland Athletics coach for three years. He was the assistant GM of the Houston Astros from 1989 to 1993, and became the second African-American general manager in baseball history when he was named to that post with the Astros in 1994 and 1995. He later held the same position with the New York Yankees in 1996 and 1997, in the days when the position was still a bit of a revolving door under mercurial owner George Steinbrenner.

He later served as vice president of Major League Baseball, with responsibility for on-field discipline, until his retirement at the end of 2010, succeeding Frank Robinson and later being replaced by Joe Torre. In retirement, he was affected by kidney failure. His two children offered to donate one of their kidneys to prolong his life, but he turned them down: "I've had a good life and I don't want to take a kidney from young people who really need them and still have their whole lives ahead of them. That would be very selfish on my part." He had to undergo dialysis three times a week, but said he had no complaints, explaining that "every day I’m still here is a blessing." Watson died from his illness in 2020 at the age of 74.

According to the similarity scores method, one of the two most similar players to Bob Watson is Hall of Fame first baseman George Kelly. Bob played in a low average era while Kelly played in a lively-ball era, which explains why Bob's OPS+ score is much higher than George's. Kelly is also notorious as one of the weaker Hall of Fame inductees. The most similar comparison for Watson is Jeff Conine, who has an even lower OPS+ than Kelly.

His first baseball card appearance was in the 1969 Topps set.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL All-Star (1973 & 1975)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1977)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (1976 & 1977)

Preceded by
Bill Wood
Houston Astros General Manager
Succeeded by
Gerry Hunsicker
Preceded by
Gene Michael
New York Yankees General Manager
Succeeded by
Brian Cashman

Record as a General Manager[edit]

Draft Picks[edit]

First Round Picks - Astros

Other Notable Selections - Astros

First Round Picks - Yankees

Other Notable Selections - Yankees

Significant Trades[edit]



Significant Signings[edit]



Further Reading[edit]

  • Richard Justice: "Astros great, pioneering exec Bob Watson dies",, May 15, 2020. [1]
  • Jim Reineking: "Bob Watson, former MLB player and World Series-winning general manager, dies at 73", USA Today, May 15, 2020. [2]
  • Bob Watson (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, April 1986, pp. 95-97. [3]

Related Sites[edit]