Catching Up With: Sam Horn
Each week in the Toy Department, veteran Sun sports writer Mike Klingaman will track down a former local sports figure and let you know what’s going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With..." Let him know who you’d like him to find, and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With..."
Could Sam Horn’s Orioles debut have been any more dramatic?
Rescued from the minors just days before the 1990 opener, and rocked by his mother’s recent stroke, Horn hit a pair of three-run home runs to help the Birds defeat Kansas City, 7-6 in 11 innings.
For the day, the strapping Horn had four hits – all with bats he borrowed from teammates because his clubs had not yet arrived. That game, he dedicated to his mother, which he’d still like to think played a part in her recovery.
Sam Horn is congratulated after hitting a home run in 1991. (Sun photo by Bo Rader)
"Has it been 19 years?" Horn said. "For me, the date (April 9) never gets old. I’ve moved on, but the thought of that game will be there as long as I live."
Now 45, he works as a good-will ambassador for the Boston Red Sox, the club that originally signed and then surrendered the would-be slugger. The Orioles took one look at the hard-swinging Horn, 6 feet 5 and 240 pounds, dismissed his porous fielding and named him their designated hitter on Opening Day.
Horn arrived in Kansas City with heavy heart after visiting his mom in California.
"I didn’t want to leave her but there was nothing I could do," he said. "The Orioles had told me, ‘If you want to make the team, you have to come now. I was sad, but I remember mom looking up and mumbling, ‘Go back, baby.’
"I told her I loved her and that I was going to play and put forth my best effort on every pitch."
But no one predicted the rampage to come.
In the second inning, with two aboard, Horn poled a fast ball off KC ace Brett Saberhagen, the Cy Young winner, deep into the waterfalls at Royals Stadium. In the eighth, with the Orioles down, 6-3, Horn tagged a curveball off reliever Steve Farr into the bullpen to tie the game.
His six RBIs set an club record for Opening Day and drew ooohs from his skipper.
"He (Horn) has spoiled us," manager Frank Robinson said. "I’ll tell you, he’s so big and strong, you expect him to hit them that way. If he doesn’t drive in five or six runs every game, we’re going to tell him to hit the road."
The next day, Horn got two more hits, eliciting praise from Royals star George Brett.
"If the season ended today," Brett said, "Horn would win the Triple Crown."
Of course, that didn’t happen. Horn played three years with the Orioles, hit 42 home runs and knocked in 125. He hung around the majors for another two seasons, played briefly in Japan and then bowed out.
Horn settled in East Greenwich, R.I., where, for awhile, he owned a sports complex and worked as an announcer for Red Sox games. The father of three, he still plays in charity games and hopes one day to return to broadcasting.
He remains a cult hero around Boston where, as a player, he was known as "The Fenway Fridge." A Web site set up in his honor – sonsofsamhorn.net – continues to flourish.
"God bless, I’m doing pretty good," said Horn. "I weigh 285 and I still love sweets, but I work out five days a week and I can hit a golf ball nice and hard.
"Baltimore was a nice time in my life and I wouldn’t change a thing, especially that game in KC. I know that on one special day, in one special year, I was the best player in baseball."