MLB Legend Bob Watson Dies at 74

Dan Mennella
May 15, 2020 - 7:34 am

Retired MLB slugger Bob Watson, later a club executive and league official, has died at 74, one of his former teams said on Thursday.

Watson, the first black general manager to lead a team to a World Series title, died of kidney disease, according to his son, the Houston Astros announced.

"This is a very sad day for the Astros and for all of baseball," the team said in a statement. "Bob Watson enjoyed a unique and remarkable career in Major League Baseball that spanned six decades, reaching success at many different levels, including as a player, coach, general manager and MLB executive."

Watson was a two-time All-Star in his 19-year playing career, primarily with Houston. He also had stints with the Yankees, Red Sox and Braves later in his playing days.

After retiring with 184 career homers and a batting line of .295/.364/.447 in nearly 7,000 career plate appearances, Watson transitioned into coaching and, later, front office roles. He was hitting coach for the feared 1988 Oakland Athletics, who reached the World Series.

Watson became just the second black general manager in MLB history when the Astros hired him in 1993, and the first to win a World Series when he served in the same role with the Yankees in 1996, according to ESPN. After stepping down from the Yankees following the 1997 season, Watson took on executive roles in MLB's league offices.

"Bob Watson was a highly accomplished figure in our National Pastime and a deeply respected colleague for those of us at Major League Baseball," MLB Commisioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "He was an All-Star during his 19-year Major League career, and a groundbreaking executive in the front office."

Watson also appeared briefly in the 1977 cult comedy "Bad News Bears in Breaking Training," and delivered his famous line "Let the kids play!"

"He was an All-Star on the field and a true pioneer off of it, admired and respected by everyone he played with or worked alongside,'' the Astros said. "Bob will be missed, but not forgotten."