By Trey Wilson
CURVE, Pa. – Even before his selection to the Fans’ Choice All-Time Curve Team, Tony Watson already held a special place in the history of the Altoona Curve.
On September 18, 2010, Watson took the mound against the Trenton Thunder at Waterfront Park, needing one win to clinch the franchise’s first-ever championship.
As the starter that day, the Thunder scored a run against Watson in the third inning, but his offense immediately picked him up with a two-run single by Jim Negrych in the fourth and RBI hits by Matt Hague and Negrych in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead.
The Curve never looked back, as Watson settled in to work through six innings and was the winning pitcher in the 5-2 victory.
When asked about his time with the Curve, Watson fondly reflected on “dogpiling in the middle of the diamond and bringing home the trophy.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” Watson said. “Spraying champagne and feeling the burn in your eyes. That was a lot of fun.”
Watson initially joined the Curve in 2009 as their Opening Day starter and made five starts on the year, going 0-3 with an 8.22 ERA before missing most of the season. He found much more success when he returned in 2010. In nine starts, he went 3-4 with a 3.78 ERA, but went 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA in his 25 relief appearances.
“There are a lot of highlights from that year,” Watson said. “A lot of individual accomplishments that year, but collectively we just had a blast every day. It was fun to come to the clubhouse. There was music going, cards being played in the clubhouse. We would get out on the field and the fans were showing up. We were winning.”
He was used in the starting rotation in the postseason, going 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his two starts. Along with pitching the championship clincher, Watson was the winning pitcher in Game 4 of the Division Series against Harrisburg to send the Curve to the ELCS.
“Earlier in the year, Stephen Strasburg made his professional debut against us and we hit him around,” Watson said. “After that, we went on a roll and we never looked back.”
Watson worked as a relief pitcher in the big leagues for seven seasons with the Pirates, combining to go 31-16 with a 2.68 ERA in 450 games with 30 saves. He was selected as a National League All-Star in 2014, leading the N.L. with 78 appearances while going 10-2 with a 1.63 ERA.
He was traded to the Dodgers last year and pitched in 24 games during the regular season. He also worked in 11 games for Los Angeles in the postseason, going 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA as they won the National League championship.
This year, Watson signed with the San Francisco Giants, where he joined a handful of other Curve alumni, including Andrew McCutchen, Gorkys Hernandez, Alen Hanson and Hunter Strickland.
Last fall, Watson was as the relief pitcher honoree on the Fans’ Choice All-Time Curve Team, as voted on by fans in celebration of the Curve’s 20th season, a tribute from Curve fans who fondly remember that first-ever championship run.
Get the Tony Watson Fans’ Choice All-Time Curve Team bobblehead on Saturday, June 9 at Peoples Natural Gas Field. Click here for tickets.