Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Cards #540, Bob Watson (Article 107)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
This was a man who could hit the ball.
With the Astros to begin his career, Bob Watson enjoyed a .297 lifetime batting average over 14 different seasons (from 1966 to 1979).
In 1979, Bob Watson was traded to the Red Sox and MASHED. In 84 games, he hit .337 with 13 homers and 53 runs batted in.
After the 1979 season, he signed as a free agent with the Yankees. The exact date was November 8.
Bob Watson was a first baseman...
On August 2, 1979, the Yankees catcher, Thurman Munson, died in a terrible plane crash. The Yankees didn't have a quality candidate to replace Munson for the 1980 season.
On November 1, 1979, the Yankees traded their star first baseman (with others) to the Toronto Blue Jays for catcher Rick Cerone (and others). The Yankees now had their catcher. They still had a first baseman, a lefty one, and a top defensive player, in Jim Spencer. In 1979, Spencer batted .288, but, he had only batted .227 in 1978 and .247 in 1977. Spencer was, at that point in his career, a platoon guy and a defensive replacement. The Yankees needed a first baseman who could mash.
Enter Bob Watson.
And Watson hit. At least that first year with the Yankees, he hit.
In 1980, Bob Watson batted .307/13/68. Jim Spencer hit .236/13/43. Rick Cerone, in his best year as a Yankee, hit .277/14/85.
It all seemed to work in 1980. The Yankees won 103 games, and the American League East. But, they lost in the playoffs to the Kansas City Royals.
The manager (Dick Howser) was fired. Rick Cerone would never again hit more than five homers in a season. He would never hit close to .277 as a starter. He played in 147 games that year. Only twice more in his career, would he play in 100 games or more in a season (1987 and 1989) and then, just barely.
Jim Spencer was out of baseball after the 1982 season after hitting .182 for the Yankees and Oakland A's after that 1980 season.
And Bob Watson also disappointed. In 1981, now platooning with Dave Revering, he hit .212/6/12. (Imagine driving in just 12 runs over a season. It was the strike year, but still...)
After just seven 7 games in 1982, the Yankees traded Bob Watson to the Braves. Over three seasons, he played in 171 games and batted .264... as a sort-of platoon partner with the Braves' first baseman - Chris Chambliss.
Bob Watson had an interesting career.
He became somewhat famous, and was in all the Guinness Books of World Records (as I recall) because he scored the One Millionth Run in Baseball History in 1975.
In the 1977 movie, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, it was Bob Watson who first said, "Hey, come on, let the kids play."
When he was with the Red Sox, he hit for the cycle becoming the first player to do that in both the National League and the American League.
In 1982 with the Braves, Bob Watson served as the hitting coach while still also being an active player. The manager of the Braves at the time was Joe Torre.
In 1995, Bob Watson became the General Manager of the Yankees. Later that year, he hired Joe Torre to manage the club for the 1996 season. The rest, as they say, is history...
Information from various sources, but always baseball-reference.com is a huge and great resource.
Next Up - Ron Blomberg!