HOUSTON -- Bob Watson, the former Astros slugger who went on to a distinguished career as the general manager of the Yankees and Astros and with Major League Baseball, was invited to Minute Maid Park on Sunday by president of business operations Reid Ryan to present Jose Altuve with an award for breaking his franchise record for hits in the first half.
Altuve entered Sunday with 130 hits, which smashed Watson's previous record of 123 hits before the All-Star break set in 1973.
"I congratulate him," Watson told MLB.com. "I hope he does it again next year and the year after that. I'm sorry it took 42 years or whatever for somebody to do it."
Even though Watson and Altuve have both worn No. 27 for the Astros, they are different players. Watson, known as "The Bull," was a burly first baseman and outfielder who slugged 184 homers in 19 years in the Majors, including 14 with the Astros, and made two All-Star teams. Altuve, of course, stands 5-foot-6.
"He plays like a big man," Watson said. "He's a little fella, but he plays big. He's learned how to play this game. He understands it's put the ball in play, use his tools and his foot speed."
Watson was also going to spend some time with manager Bo Porter, who has leaned on Watson throughout his career. Watson was the first African American general manager in Major League Baseball history when the Astros named him to the post in 1993, and three years later with the Yankees, he became the first black GM to win a World Series.
"I've been trying to get Bob to come down here for quite some time now," Porter said. "I guess it took the big guy breaking his record to get him down here. I'm excited he's coming. … He's accomplished quite a bit. We talk from time to time and he's a great ambassador for the game."
On Porter, Watson said: "He's a young man that's been put in a very difficult situation to accept losing for a couple of years, and I just talked to him about hanging in there. It's going to get better."