Bob Watson, a longtime player and baseball executive, has died after a lengthy battle with kidney disease. His son, Keith, shared the news on Twitter last night. Watson was 74 years old.
Yankees fans best remember Watson as the Yankees’ general manager from 1995-1998. He was involved in a number of major decisions, including the hiring of Joe Torre and the trade for Tino Martinez. Under his leadership, the Bombers won their first World Series in 18 years. He also became the first African American general manager to win a world championship.
Like most Yankees executives, Watson clashed frequently with the late George Steinbrenner. “Everybody knows Mr. Steinbrenner is a hands-on guy,” Watson once said of the micro-managing team owner. ”I know that. It’s his club and it’s his prerogative. We’ll just leave it at that.”
These competing visions, and The Boss’ continued involvement in baseball decisions, ultimately led to Watson resigning his position ahead of the 1998 season. Brian Cashman replaced him, and still holds the post today.
Prior to becoming a front-office executive, Watson had a distinguished playing career. In parts of 19 seasons, from 1966-1984, he hit .295/.364/.447 with 184 home runs (128 wRC+). The left fielder signed with the Yankees as a free agent ahead of the 1980 season, and he helped carry the team to the World Series in 1981. The Bombers fell short, losing in six games, and then traded Watson to the Braves the next season.
Watson announced he was battling Stage 4 kidney failure in 2016. Two years later, he declined a transplant offer from his children.
“Both my kids offered to donate kidneys to me,” he explained to Bill Madden in 2018, “and I told them both the same thing: ‘I’ve had a good life and I don’t want to take a kidney from young people who really need them and still have their whole lives ahead of them.’ That would be very selfish on my part.”
Our thoughts are with the Watson family today, as well as his many fans across baseball.