Thursday, September 15, 2011

Familiar Faces / Strange Places & On This Day: Bob Watson / Red Sox

September 15th, 1979. After hitting a single in the second, a double in the fourth, and tripling in the eighth, Red Sox first Baseman Bob Watson completes a natural cycle with a home run the in the ninth inning of the Red Sox 10-2 victory over the Orioles in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. The win holds the Orioles magic number for the AL East crown at "1". He also becomes the first modern major leaguer to hit for the cycle in both leagues having already accomplishing the feat with Houston in 1977.

Watson was originally a catcher in minors, but he was converted to a first baseman / outfielder by the time he made it to the majors in 1966. He spent most of his career as a solid and dependable contributor in Houston making it to two All Star games (1972 & 1975). A big strong player, there is no disputing the fact his power numbers were negatively impacted by playing in the Astrodome. Of the 184 career home runs he did collect, 117 of them came on the road.

One May 4th, 1975 Watson became the answer to an interesting (yet flawed) baseball trivia question. He was credited with scoring the 1,000,000th run in major league history. In the second inning, Watson walked, stole second base and scored Milt May's 3-run homer 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 ConcepciĆ³n, who had just homered in Cincinnati and was also racing around the bases. For his effort, Watson who won $10,000 and one million Tootsie Rolls provided by the event's sponsor. It has later been determined that inaccurate records prevent us from really knowing who scored the "one millionth" run.

After 14 seasons in Houston, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox in June 1979 for what turned out to be two unknown players (Pete Ladd and Bobby Sprowl) and cash. He played in 84 games as a member of the Red Sox before leaving as a Free Agent at the end of the 1979 season.

He signed with the New York Yankees before the 1980 season and played on two Yankee playoff teams (1980 and 1981) before being traded to the Braves seven games into the 1982 season. He ended up helping the surprising 1982 Western Division Champion Braves, managed by Joe Torre. He spent the next two seasons in Atlanta, mostly as a pinch hitter, and retired after the 1984 season.

He was named as the General Manager of the Houston Astros at the end of the 1993 season becoming the first black man MLB history to hold that role. He later became the GM for the New York Yankees and teamed up with Joe Torre to deliver the 1996 World Series championship. He has worked in the MLB front office since 1997, were he has been in charge of discipline, rules and on-field operations. In 1997 he has been lampooned by the Boston media for his efforts to make sure manager Terry Francona wears the proper uniform.


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