When Houston General Manager Spec Richardson got the word about Bob Watson, he shouldn’t have been too surprised. Spec surely was accustomed to hearing the worst by then. Watson suffered torn ligaments in his ankle and bone chips, and will be out six to eight weeks, which was about how long the season had to run. Watson injured the ankle beating out a fielder’s choice at first base and avoiding a double play in the ninth inning of Houston’s 7-3 loss at Wrigley Field, July 31.
“He was just starting to hit a little bit, too,” Manager Harry Walker lamented. Watson hit his second home run of the season two days earlier back in Houston. An injured arm caused Watson to give up catching and move to the outfield. Watson was scheduled to catch in the Instructional League this fall to see how his arm has recovered. After Richardson and Walker talked the current situation over, they decided not to bring anyone up immediately. The reason was simple. The organization did not have anyone who could help. It was hit hard in the minors, too. “Nate Colbert is out for the season with a broken hand, and Ivan Murrell is out for the season,” Richardson said in mentioning two outfielders who have seen some duty with the Astros this season. “Danny Walton had surgery on his arm.”
Fred Gladding, the man who was supposed to be the big fellow in the bullpen, was a season-long casualty and finally underwent surgery. Joe Morgan was injured in the fourth game of the season, and eventually underwent surgery. Pitcher Wade Blasingame went on the shelf for six weeks, and because of shoulder troubles and later a pulled rib cage muscle, Mike Cuellar has made ten fewer starts than the other pitchers in the regular rotation. John Bateman has been knocked out of the lineup for a week or more on three occasions by various disabilities. In addition to the injures, the Astros have had to give up Watson, Norm Miller, Doug Rader, Larry Dierker, and Danny Coombs for two weeks’ Army Reserve duty, plus weekend duty, once a month. “This is one of the things that has hurt our team so much,” Walker commented. “The injuries, the military obligations. They have continually disrupted the team. There is just no way the team ever has a chance to get set.” Walker believes the reason St. Louis was able to break away from the league primarily because the Cards have not had to contend with these problems.