NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, February 3, 2016, 11:26 AM
Bob Watson announces his resignation as general manager of the New York Yankees as his successor Brian Cashman looks on at press conference at Yankee Stadium.
(Originally published by the Daily News on Feb. 4, 1998.)
Bob Watson claims he had seen everything he needed to see at the expansion draft in Phoenix last November to know his time to leave the Yankees, to leave baseball, was upon him.
And he wasn’t talking about George Steinbrenner’s latest flip job, this one concerning the team’s inability to land Pedro Martinez, as the deciding factor in question.
“Nine years ago, when I walked into those meetings, there were only two faces in the room that were of color. Myself and Frank Robinson,” Watson said at the Stadium yesterday, moments before introducing his 30-year-old ex-assistant, Brian Cashman, as his successor as Steinbrenner’s 17th and youngest GM.
“But I went there to those meetings this year and there were some 20 faces (of color). I knew it was time I could step down . . . and move on with my life.”
With his wife, Carol, by his side and a Yankee banner perhaps symbolically behind him, the 51-year-old Watson officially resigned his post as GM and Steinbrenner’s primary sparring partner yesterday, taking with him a two-year legacy most of his predecessors in the GM chair cannot boast.
The first African-American GM in baseball history with the Astros in 1993, Watson indicated the Yankees likely will be his final employer in baseball. If so, he takes with him a sterling resume that includes the club’s first World Series title in 18 years.
Watson insisted his decision was not health related, although recent bouts with prostate cancer and hypertension underscored the latter years of his executive career. And he insisted his decision to leave “absolutely had nothing to do” with Steinbrenner’s typical ravings or “any of the events that have taken place over this winter,” although few people believe that.
“I’ve enjoyed my stay here to the extent one can enjoy it,” Watson admitted. “But I can’t say I wouldn’t do it again.”
Indeed, Watson recalled when Charlie Hayes squeezed the final out of the 1996 World Series making Watson the first African-American GM to be fitted for such a ring streams of tears were coming down his face.
“I have no regrets at all. What I have accomplished in the industry can speak for itself,” Watson said. “It was a real sense of accomplishment. I would say that was the most enjoyable moment . . . and nobody can take that away from me.”
Not even Steinbrenner, although Watson refused to take any parting shots in taking what he repeatedly called “the high road” when asked about his often stormy relationship with The Boss.
“You’re going to write and say whatever you want to say about George Steinbrenner. But I came into this with my eyes open,” Watson said. “I’ve made my decision based on me. This is not about Mr. Steinbrenner. This is about me. I did it for me.”
“Today is a bittersweet day for me,” he said more than once. “Today ends 33 years of being in professional baseball, and 43 involved in baseball from Little League to the present. I need some time off.”
Watson, who will be paid his $ 400,000 salary for 1998 plus an undisclosed severance package for 1999, clarified that he has never sought other baseball jobs while under contract to the Yankees, as had been reported.
Instead, he said he has plans to travel and that he just recently had begun sending out feelers for speaking engagements, broadcasting positions and “possibly even laying some cement.”
Anything but baseball.