Bob Watson, a two-time MLB All-Star and former Yankees general manager, died Friday after a lengthy battle with kidney disease. He was 74.
Watson spent parts of 14 seasons (1966-79) playing for the Astros after the club signed him as a 19-year-old free agent in 1965. The first baseman and left fielder was a two-time All-Star (1973, 1975), who hit over .300 four times and reached 100 RBI in a season twice. Watson also played for the Braves, Red Sox and Yankees.
Watson became the first player in MLB history to hit for the cycle in both the American and National Leagues. He finished his 19-year long MLB career with 184 home runs, 989 RBI and 1,826 hits. In 17 career postseason games, Watson hit .371. He also holds the distinction of scoring MLB's one millionth run.
Watson also had a memorable cameo scene in the 1977 comedy film, "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training" in which he kicks off the chants of "let them play!" during a game filmed at the Astrodome in Houston.
"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. 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."
After retiring as a player in 1984, Watson spent time as a hitting coach for the Oakland Athletics and as an assistant general manager for the Astros before becoming the club's general manager following the 1993 season. Watson would later become the first African American general manager to win a World Series with the Yankees in 1996. After Watson retired following the 1997 season, current Yankees general manager Brian Cashman took over on the job. Watson would later serve as MLB's vice president of on-field operations, chairman of the selection committee and general manager of professional baseball operations for USA Baseball.
"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 commissioner 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. Bob rose up to become general manager of the Astros in 1993 and made history as the first African American GM of a World Series champion with the 1996 Yankees. He then oversaw all on-field operations for the commissioner's office and played a pivotal role in USA Baseball's success internationally, including its Olympic gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Games. ... On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to his wife Carol, their children and his many friends and admirers across our game."