Former MLB All-Star, GM and executive Bob Watson dies at 74

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HOUSTON — Bob Watson, a two-time All-Star as a player who later became the first black general manager to win a World Series with the New York Yankees in 1996, has died. He was 74.

The Houston Astros, for whom Watson played his first 14 major league seasons, announced the death Thursday night. The team didn’t provide details.

Watson, who was nicknamed “The Bull,” made the All-Star team in 1973 and ’75, hit over .300 four times and drove in at least 100 runs twice while hitting in the middle of the Astros’ lineup. He also holds the distinction of scoring the 1 millionth run in major league history, accomplishing the feat on May 4, 1975, against the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park.

He also played for Boston (1979), the Yankees (1980-82) and Atlanta Braves (1982-84), finishing with a .295 career batting average with 184 home runs, 989 RBIs and 1,826 runs scored while primarily playing first base and left field. Watson also hit .371 in 17 career postseason games.

After retiring from playing, Watson began coaching and helped the 1988 Oakland Athletics win the American League pennant as the hitting coach for the likes of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

He became the second black general manager in major league history when he was hired by the Astros in 1993. Watson was hired by the Yankees in 1995, and helped put together the World Series-winning squad in 1996. He retired from the Yankees after the 1997 season and later served as Major League Baseball’s vice president in charge of discipline and vice president of rules and on-field operations.

Rob Manfred released the following statement:

“Bob Watson was a highly accomplished figure in our National Pastime and a deeply respected colleague for those of us at Major League Baseball.  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.

“Bob was known for some of the unique moments of his generation, including scoring the millionth run in Baseball history and a memorable role in The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.  But I will always remember the outstanding example that Bob set for others, his years of model service to the Baseball Assistance Team and the courage with which he met his health challenges in recent years.  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.”