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Former MLB player, GM and executive Watson dies at 74

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New York (AFP)

Bob Watson, who had a historic career as a Major League Baseball executive and in 19 seasons as a player, died Thursday night in Houston, Texas. He was 74.

Watson, who was the first black general manager of a World Series champion with the 1996 New York Yankees, played from 1966 to 1979 with the Houston Astros and also suited up for Boston, Atlanta and the Yankees before retiring in 1984.

"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.

Watson became only the second black MLB general manager with the Astros in 1993 and held the same post with the Yankees from 1995-1997. He later joined the MLB staff as a vice president in charge of discipline, rules and on-field operations. He held the role until retiring in 2010.

Watson also served as selection committee chairman for USA Baseball, playing a pivotal role in constructing the 2000 Sydney Olympic US gold medal squad.

Over 1,832 MLB games as an outfielder and first baseman, Watson batted .295 with 184 home runs and drove in 989 runs.

Watson was the first player in MLB history to hit for the cycle -- a single, double, triple and homer in the same game -- in the National and American League, managing the feat for the then-NL Astros in 1977 and with Boston in 1979.

The Astros mourned the passing of one of the team's first iconic players, an MLB All-Star in 1973 and 1975.

"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.

"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. Bob will be missed, but not forgotten."

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