KANSAS CITY, Mo.—John Wathan, who has spent 47 of his 51 years in professional baseball with the Royals, announced he will retire following this season.
Wathan, selected fourth overall by the Royals in the 1971 January draft, played all 10 of his big league seasons for Kansas City as a catcher, first baseman and outfielder. Wathan’s first season was 1976, when the Royals won their first American League West championship. Wathan’s last season was 1985, when the Royals won their first World Series.
He then went on to manage both the Royals and Angels before broadcasting Royals games in 1996 and 1997, and joining the Royals player development department in 1999.
“I’m very fortunate to have worked with the Royals, the classiest organization in baseball, and with so many great people through the years,” he 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.”
Wathan hit .305 with more walks (50) than strikeouts (42) for the 1980 American League champion Royals, and in 1982 had 36 stolen bases, a Major League record for catchers that still stands today. Wathan was on first base when Dane Iorg hit his iconic single in the ninth inning to win Game 6 of the 1985 World Series.
Wathan was elevated to Royals Manager midway through the 1987 season and led the Royals into the 1991 season, including a 92-70 record in 1989. Wathan’s teams went 287-270 overall, ranking him fifth all-time in franchise history in wins.
In addition to player and manager, Wathan has served as an assistant coach, scout, broadcaster, roving instructor, and special assistant to player development. He and Nancy live in the Kansas City area and raised three children: sons Dusty and Derek, who each played professionally, and daughter Dina, who is in her 18th year working with the Royals.
“We are proud to celebrate Duke for his 47 years as a Royal,” said J.J. Picollo, 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.”