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Former Coach Lew Watts Dies

Former teacher and baseball coach Llewellyn 'Lew' Watts III, who groomed two Peddie players for the major leagues, died June 25 at the age of 81.

According to police, Watts was swimming laps in the pool at the Rossmoor retirement community, where he had lived since 1995, when he collapsed.

Watts, who pitched for the old St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles), mentored both Erik Hanson '83 (Seattle, Kansas City, Boston and Toronto) and Brian Meyer '82 (Houston).

"While at Peddie from 1979-1983, I grew to admire his passion for things, especially jazz and baseball," said Hanson in a recent interview. "It wasn't that we loved the same things. It was his enthusiasm, the look on his face when he talked about the subjects, the gleam in his eye."

Watts taught mathematics and jazz at Peddie from 1972-1987. In recent years, he was an assistant baseball coach at the Hun School, where he also taught a course on the history of jazz. He wrote several books on the topics of baseball and jazz.

"What I remember most about Lew is the sparkle in his eyes when he talked about baseball," said former lacrosse coach Dietrich von Schwerdtner. "He considered himself lucky to have seen some of the great players of his lifetime and could tell one interesting story after another."

If Coach Watts had not persuaded Erik Hanson 20 years ago that his 90-mile-an-hour fastball would make him a target of just about every pro team in the nation, he might have continued dreaming of playing in the NBA.

"It was the way he threw, not just the speed," said Watts in 1999 at the dedication of the Hanson Fieldhouse. "I am gratified that somewhere along the line, I may have been involved in his success."

Watts was born in Orange, N.J., grew up in Mountain Lakes and lived in New York City, Summit and Hightstown. He was graduate of Drew University and member of the Drew Athletic Hall of Fame. He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II and worked at the New York Mercentile Exchange for several years.

His wife Barbara told local newspapers that Watts swam daily, sometimes twice a day in the pool at Rossmoor and at Peddie.

In a recent letter to the Chronicle, Watts said, "Mention of Peddie's baseball team second place finish to Hun makes me think that members of our 1973-87 teams might be surprised to learn that their old mentor was the pitching coach of the Hun team - 80 years old and still at it."