Robert José Watson (born April 10, 1946) is an American former professional baseball player and sports executive.
Watson in 1976
|First baseman / Left fielder|
|Born: April 10, 1946|
Los Angeles, California
|September 9, 1966, for the Houston Astros|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 30, 1984, for the Atlanta Braves|
|Runs batted in||989|
|Career highlights and awards|
Watson was a first baseman and left fielder who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves from 1966 to 1984. Watson was credited with scoring the millionth run in baseball history, although this was later found to be incorrect. Watson coached baseball after retiring as a player. After a return to the Yankees serving as general manager, the team won the 1996 World Series. He served as MLB's vice president in charge of discipline and vice president of rules and on-field operations until 2010.
Nicknamed "Bull," Watson was originally a catcher in the minor leagues, however, he converted to first base and the outfield by the time he made his major league debut with the Astros on September 9, 1966. Watson was a dependable hitter whose home run numbers were somewhat hurt by the fact that he played the majority of his career in the Astrodome.
From 1966 through 1970, Watson appeared in less than 100 games each season for the Astros, batting .259 with 14 home runs and 74 RBIs overall. From 1971 through 1978, Watson appeared in at least 129 games each season, batting .303 with 122 home runs and 690 RBIs overall. He was selected as an All-Star twice; in 1973 and 1975. On June 24, 1977, Watson hit for the cycle in a 6–5 win over the San Francisco Giants. In 1979, Watson played 49 games with the Astros, batting .304 with 3 home runs and 18 RBIs. In total, during his 14 seasons with the Astros, Watson appeared in 1381 games, batting .297 with 139 home runs and 781 RBIs.
On June 13, 1979, Watson was traded to the Red Sox, in exchange for Pete Ladd, cash, and a player to be named later (who turned out to be Bobby Sprowl). Watson played 84 games for the Red Sox through the remainder of the season. He batted .337 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs. On September 15, 1979, Watson again hit for the cycle. Having already hit for the cycle with the Astros in 1977, he became the first player to accomplish this feat in both the National League and American League.
Following the season, he signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees. With the Yankees, he reached the post-season for the first time in his career, losing to the Kansas City Royals in the 1980 American League Championship Series. A year later, Watson reached the World Series for the only time in his career. Watson hit two home runs and batted .318 with seven runs batted in, but the Yankees lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.
On April 23, 1982, Watson was traded to the Atlanta Braves for a prospect named Scott Patterson, who later became an actor best known for his role in Gilmore Girls. Watson helped propel the Braves to the 1982 National League West title. In 1983, Watson hit .309 mostly as a pinch hitter. He retired after the 1984 season.
Watson was credited with scoring the 1,000,000th run in major league history on Sunday, May 4, 1975, at 12:32 in the afternoon. Watson scored from second base on a three-run homer by teammate Milt May at San Francisco's Candlestick Park. It was known that the 999,999th run had already scored, with sponsored updates being provided by and to every ballpark. Despite the lack of in-game urgency, Watson ran at full speed, reaching home plate approximately four seconds before Dave Concepción, who had just homered in Cincinnati and was also racing around the basepaths. "I never ran so fast in my entire life," said Concepcion. But it was Watson who won $10,000 and one million Tootsie Rolls provided by the event's sponsor. The 1,000,000th run total only included runs scored in the National and American Leagues (not "3rd" major leagues, such as the Federal League). Watson joked that in the aftermath of the event, his fan mail doubled—from 4 letters to 8. Later, more accurate recalculations of baseball's record-keeping showed that neither Watson nor Concepcion scored baseball's actual millionth run, and it is not known who did.
Coach and general managerEdit
After retirement, Watson moved into coaching and was the hitting coach on the 1988 Oakland A's pennant winning team. At the end of the 1993 season, Watson was named general manager (GM) of the Houston Astros, becoming the second African American to serve as a GM in the major leagues. He served as GM for the New York Yankees from October 23, 1995, to February 2, 1998. The 1996 team won the World Series, the first Yankee team to do so since 1978. He became the first African American GM to win a World Series championship.
After the 1997 season, Watson retired from the Yankees. He served as Major League Baseball's vice president in charge of discipline and vice president of rules and on-field operations. He was under consideration for the Astros general manager position, but the position was given to Ed Wade, the Philadelphia Phillies' former GM.
Watson drew criticism late in the 2007 season. Under his watch, Major League Baseball mandated that managers could no longer wear a team issued pullover instead of a uniform jersey top.
|“||There's going to be, for lack of a better term, a Francona Rule,” Watson said. “You can only wear your uniform top or jacket. You can't wear your nightshirt, or whatever it is. You can wear it before games, or after games, but not during games. You have to have your uniform top at all times.||”|
This caused particular friction between MLB and Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who prefers to wear a pullover due to circulation problems. During game action of the second inning of a Red Sox-Yankees game on August 28, an MLB representative was sent to verify that Francona was wearing a uniform jersey. The Boston media saw this as frivolous, or even biased, due to the public's alleged indifference toward the issue, the specific use of Francona as an example, and the fact that the representative appeared during an important in-division matchup.
Watson retired from his position with Major League Baseball in 2010.
Watson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 1994, which was successfully treated. Watson writes about his experience with prostate cancer in his 1997 book, Survive To Win, and speaks regularly at cancer awareness conferences and with players and staff in Major League Baseball. Watson's advocacy has been credited with detecting and treating many MLB personnel, including Joe Torre.
- "Los Angeles Dodgers 7, Houston Astros 0". Retrosheet. September 9, 1966.
- "Houston Astros 6, San Francisco Giants 5". Retrosheet. June 24, 1977.
- "Boston Red Sox 10, Baltimore Orioles 2". Retrosheet. September 15, 1979.
- Smith, Christopher (June 17, 2015). "List of the 20 Boston Red Sox players who have hit for the cycle starting with Brock Holt". masslive.com. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
- "Hitting for the Cycle Records". Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Bob Watson Statistics and History - Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com.
- "San Francisco Giants 8, Houston Astros 6 (1)". Retrosheet. May 4, 1975.
- "The Machine Director's Cut: The Millionth Run by Joe Posnanski at Sports Illustrated". joeposnanski.si.com. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16.
- The Machine: The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds by Joe Posnanski
- "THE PLAYOFFS; Watson Is Named Astros' G.M." The New York Times. October 6, 1993.
- Bradford, Rob (December 3, 2007). "'Francona Rule' targets Tito's pullover". The Boston Herald. Retrieved 2009-07-23.
- "Former Yankees GM Bob Watson retires from post as MLB's VP of Rules and On-Field Operations". New York Daily News. November 16, 2010. Retrieved July 11, 2013.
- "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training". imdb.com.
- Justice, Richard (May 23, 2017). "Watson receives BAT Lifetime Achievement Award". MLB.com.
- McTaggart, Brian (May 23, 2014). "Watson broke ground as player, executive". MLB.com.
- Modiano, Chuck (August 15, 2016). "Bob Watson, architect of the 1996 Yankees, battling kidney failure—and a forgotten legacy". New York Daily News.
- Watson, Bob (1997). Survive to Win. with Russ Pate. Thomas Nelson Inc. ISBN 0785271937.