Watson was a consistent hitter and a dependable team player who, though signed as a catcher, caught only 10 major league games. He played mostly the outfield for Houston until 1975, when he took over at first base for Lee May, who had been traded. He batted a career-high .324 that year and topped the .300 mark in six of his 11 seasons as a regular. In 1976, he scored the one millionth run in ML baseball history. He drove in more than 100 runs in both 1976 and 1977, and was the Astros' all-time leader in hits and RBI when traded to Boston in June 1979.
Helped by the DH rule, Watson had a late-career renaissance in the American League. On September 15, 1979, he became the first ML player to hit for the cycle in both leagues (he did so in the NL in 1977). He signed as a free agent with the Yankees for 1980 and excelled in postseason play. In 1981 he tied a record by homering in his first World Series plate appearance; the three-run shot boosted the Yankees to a 5-3 Game One victory over the Dodgers.
He became first African American to become a Genral Manager in 1993 for the Houston Astros and later held same position from 1995 ti 1998 with the New York Yankees. His Yankee's won the 1996 World Series ending a 18 year drought. He later became vice president of rules and on field operations.
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. Other Players Who Debuted in 1966, George Scott, Sal Bando, Reggie Smith, Rick Monday, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Nate Colbert and Stan Bahnsen.
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.
Watson was credited with scoring the 1,000,000th run in major league history on 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.
On June 13, 1979, Watson was traded to the Red Sox. His first season in Boston, he hit for the cycle on September 15. 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. Despite hitting two home runs and batting .319 with seven runs batted in, 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 Gilmore Girls. Watson helped propel the Braves to the 1982 National League West title. In 1983, he hit .309 mostly as a pinch hitter. He retired after the 1984 season.
At the end of the 1993 season, he was named general manager of the Houston Astros, becoming the first ever 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.
MLB vice president of rules and on-field operations
After the 1997 season, Watson retired from the Yankees and now serves 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's chief assistant in his current position is Matt McKendry.
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 indifference towards the issue, the specific use of Francona as an example, and the fact that the representative appeared during an important in-division matchup.
Prostate Cancer spokesman
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 manager Joe Torre.
Wikipedia, Baseball Library
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- Bob Watson, Boston Red Sox, General Manager, Houston Astros, MLB vice president of rules and on-field operations, New York Yankees