Monday, January 5, 2015

Piazza, Bonds HOF worthy to former teammate

For Queens native Allen Watson, Tuesday’s Hall of Fame election should be a slam dunk for two of his former teammates, Barry Bonds and Mike Piazza.

“Two unbelievable players,” Watson said during an interview at a baseball clinic this past weekend in Glendale, New York. “Barry Bonds was the best player I’ve ever seen, and Piazza was a tremendous hitter. They both should be in the Hall of Fame.”

Watson starred locally at Christ the King High School in Middle Village and earned All-American honors at New York Tech, which led to a first-round selection by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1991 MLB draft. He played for six different teams in his eight-year big league career, with two of those stops providing Watson the opportunity to watch Bonds (Giants, 1996) and Piazza (Mets, 1999) operate up close and personal.

While Bonds didn’t tag Watson for one of his 762 home runs, Piazza hit an epic blast off of Watson in St. Louis in 1995 that looked like it was shot out of a cannon. Watson marveled not only at the speed at which Piazza's home run traveled, but the fact that shortstop Ozzie Smith almost had a chance to catch the ball.

“One time Mike Piazza hit a line drive and then [Ozzie Smith] leaped to get it — it went out of the stadium", h said. "He [Smith] almost caught it and it went out; that’s how hard Mike hit the ball.”

Despite both candidates’ resumes being clouded with allegations of steroid use, and Watson's own alleged steroid use in an affidavit by former teammate Jason Grimsley (which he vehemently denied), Watson said that none of the players from the steroid era should be excluded from the Hall of Fame because of the drug’s ubiquity during that time.

“Steroids were around for everybody back then,” he said, “so they should all be there, not just one guy. If one person was doing it, all right, but everyone was doing it, so they should be in there.”

Allen Watson with the San Francisco Giants

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