John Wathan, a former Royals player and manager who has represented the organization in various capacities for 47 of his 51 seasons in professional baseball, is calling it a career.
Wathan, who will turn 73 on Oct. 4, announced through the Royals on Wednesday that he will retire after this season.
“I’m very fortunate to have worked with the Royals, the classiest organization in baseball, and with so many great people through the years,” Wathan said. “I’m grateful for the tremendous support from all the great Royals fans throughout the years, and my wife, Nancy, and I are proud to have made Kansas City our home and be part of this community. This was my dream as a kid, and I have had a full and blessed life to join this organization at 21 and work here until almost turning 73.”
The fourth overall pick of the 1971 amateur draft by the Royals, Wathan played 10 years in the major leagues, all with Kansas City. He debuted in 1976, when the Royals won their first division championship, and retired after the 1985 season, when they won their first World Series. Kansas City won division titles in six of his 10 seasons.
The catcher/first baseman/outfielder finished his career with a .262 batting average, 21 home runs, 261 RBIs and 105 stolen bases over 860 games. He set and still holds the major league record for stolen bases by a catcher in a season with 36 in 1982.
Wathan, who was known as Duke because of his John Wayne impersonations, took over as Royals manager during the 1987 season and continued that role into the 1991 season. He compiled an overall record of 287-270, including a 92-70 mark in 1989. He later worked in the organization as an assistant coach, scout, broadcaster, roving instructor and special assistant to player development.
“We are proud to celebrate Duke for his 47 years as a Royal,” said J.J. Picollo, Royals executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager. “Not many people walking this earth have done so many things for one organization. Personally, I want to thank Duke for his complete honesty, regardless of the situation, and how he represents the game of baseball.”