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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."

Comments

GREAT STORY, BRINGS BACK GOOD MEMORIES

I sat in the second row behind the Orioles on deck circle in those days. In all the years I sat there, Sam Horn was the only player that I ever saw that made the bat make a "whoooosh" when he took his practice swings.

My personal Sam moment was one fine day in late spring my friend and I were attending a game. During batting practice, Sam was in the outfield shagging flies. My friend and I noticed and yelled out to him, "Hey Sam, who did you steal that glove from?" He started laughing, and his teammates started harassing him. It was a very cool moment for us. I thought he was an underrated player and I wish we could have kept him around for a lot longer than we did.

To paraphrase Mike Flanagan.

Strike out four times in a game: It's a Golden Sombrero.
Strike out five times in a game: It's a Horn.
Strike out six times in a game: It's a Horn O' Plenty.

The ORIGINAL Slammin' Sammy! I remember sneaking out of school early to listen to that opening day. Would he consider coming out of retirement?

Hardest hit ball I ever saw in my life was Sam in Rochester. It was foul, but my it went a mile.

I was working at a restaurant in sarasota and Sam Horn walked in and sat at the bar. I recognized him from his days as a Red Sox player. I told the bartender to get an autograph for his 3 year old son. He went up and asked him to sign a cocktail napkin and Sam said no and walked out. We could not believe how rude he was. A minute later he walks back in with a signed ball and another one for him to play catch with and told him a cocktail napkin is nothing for a kid to have. That was a great moment. Thanks Sam

I'm a father of three and Opening Day 1990 is the earliest memory my oldest son has. That day he declared Sam Horn his favorite player for life. He has held true to that statement to this day. We met with Sam a couple of times as an Oriole and he was great to my boy. We continued to follow Sam, writing him when he was playing for the Nashua, NH team in an independent league. They came to MD to play our independent team which was the predecessor to today's Class A Aberdeen Arsenal team. The game was at Harford Community College. Sam gave him memories of a lifetime that day, taking him to the field and the dugout, signing every Sam Horn baseball card my son had...probably 35 of them. Sam asked him to walk with him to the bus and carry one of his gear bags. You would have thought it was gold the way he carried it and protected it. Sam Horn was agreat ambassador for the game and he touched the heart of a young fan for life...and his dad's, too.

Please. Sam Horn was not a Oriole. Yes he did play here for a short time and did have a great opening day game, but to be a Baltimore Oriole requires much more. IT'S EARNED WITH EXCELLENCE OVER A PERIOD OF TIME.

Great article... great comments and then you have to hear from a first class jerk like Rich.... There is always a person who has to find away to pour sour milk on good cereal....

I remember being at a game in Memorial Stadium where I was sitting with a very good view directly down the right field line...Sam absolutely CRUSHED one...it went right down the line and landed about 4 rows from completely leaving the ballpark...I believe that still ranks as the longest homer i've ever seen....if that ball had been hit at Camden Yards, I think it would've hit the warehouse on the fly....if not, it would've been REAL close.

Sam Horn is another example of a ball player, playing for the Red Sox, nevers loses his allegiance.

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