Longhorn Hall of Honor: Dan Watson
Nov. 9, 2009
Dan Watson played baseball for The University of Texas during a simpler time. Back then, in the late 1940s, the Longhorns fielded a roster of only 20, and Watson keenly remembers walking into afternoon practice to see Bibb Falk himself raking the pitcher's mound.
But that doesn't mean the Longhorns enjoyed simpler results. From 1947-49, with Watson as UT's starting catcher, the Longhorns went 39-6 in Southwest Conference play, won three SWC Championships and won the program's first College World Series national championship in 1949.
Watson was also a three-time member of the All-Southwest Conference team, but defers most of the credit to Falk, his head coach, and his teammates.
"I caught Bobby Layne," said Watson, a Vintage Era inductee in the 2009 Men's Athletics Hall of Honor class. "Everybody remembers him playing football, but he was one of the best college pitchers around. He had one of the great curveballs, and could get anybody out."
Watson's humility has even followed him off the baseball diamond. Now retired, he still works four days a week serving the homeless and delivering meals to the elderly.
Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, Watson is a fixture at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Austin. He serves with the Feed My People initiative, which gives a hot breakfast to the homeless.
Watson arrives before dawn to help set up, and is among the first to greet everyone who walks through the door. He hands out glasses of orange juice, and endless smiles.
"I enjoy the people," Watson says. "I enjoy the volunteers, and I enjoy the homeless. I speak to them, and I relate to them. They need somebody who will give them a pleasant welcome."
Watson started at the First United Methodist Church because he went down one morning to see how they ran their kitchen. The church Watson attends was starting a similar breakfast endeavor, and Watson wanted to learn the routine. But he liked what he saw so much, Watson kept returning to work.
Now, he works with Feed My People on Tuesdays and Thursdays, works at his church on Wednesdays and delivers Meals on Wheels on Mondays.
"I've been doing all this for some 30 years," Watson says. "I tried to quit, but I can't find a reason to."
A few months ago, Watson received a phone call from David McWilliams, the executive director of the T-Association for former UT letterwinners, who delivered the news that Watson was to be inducted with the 53rd Hall of Honor class.
Watson didn't believe him.
"David is always pulling somebody's leg," Watson says. "Evidently it must have been true."
And with good reason -- Watson and his Longhorns laid the foundation for the legendary baseball program that still dominates. But Watson claims, with characteristic modesty, "baseball wasn't as big back then as it is today."
Perhaps that's because Clark Field, then the home of Texas Baseball, only seated an intimate crowd of about 2,000, and Watson remembers that Falk's black Ford was always parked out back, right against the outfield fence.
"We had great crowds," Watson said. "We had a great ballpark. Clark Field was the prettiest ballpark you ever saw. You could go in at noon to start practice, and Bibb Falk would be out on the pitcher's mound raking it. He wanted everything manicured."
When the Longhorns won the 1949 national championship, the College World Series was played in Wichita, Kan., before moving to Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium the next year.
"We had some great moments," Watson says. "I know I sure enjoyed it. I'm glad I was able to be part of something that was special."