Friday, November 25, 2011

#50 Bob Horner

Card:  This is Horner's fifth card.  His rookie card was in the '79 set.

Pic:  Horner is in position at third base.  Looks like Candlestick Park.  Horner is such a beastly man that he grew a full beard in the five minutes between his action shot and the inset picture.

Player:  Bob Horner was the first overall pick in the 1978 draft having set numerous school and collegiate records while at Arizona State.  The Braves immediately put the 20 year-old to work in the big leagues and he launched a home run in his first game against Bert Blyleven on June 16th.  Horner struggled a bit the rest of June, but eventually displayed the prodigious power that made him a college star.  Horner finished strong with home runs in his last three games of the year.  In what would be a sign of things to come, Horner missed the last six games of the year with a neck / shoulder injury.  Although Horner didn't debut until June, he won the Rookie of the Year based on his 23 dingers and 63 RBI.

Horner was ready for the '79 season but injured his ankle opening day and missed 32 games.  The young third baseman launched 33 homers and drove in 98 runs while batting .314 in 121 games.  Injuries again dogged Horner in 1980 causing him to miss 30 games due to ankle and shoulder problems.  Horner still hit 35 long balls with 89 RBI.  He missed another 25 games in the '81 strike year, hitting 15 home runs in 79 games.

1982 would be a big year for both Horner and the Braves.  Horner teamed with fellow slugger Dale Murphy to lead the Braves to the NL West title.  Although bothered by by foot and elbow injuries, Horner played in 140 games and had 32 home runs and 97 RBI.  Horner had only one hit in the playoffs as the Braves were swept in three games by the Cardinals.

Injuries plagued Horner again in '83 causing him to miss significant time with ankle and wrist injuries and a stomach ailment.  When he was playing, he hit .303 with 20 homers in 104 games.  Horner fractured the same wrist diving for a ball in '84 and played in only 32 games.  He came back to hit 27 home runs in both of the next two seasons playing in 130 and 141 games in '85 and '86.  Horner hit four home runs on July 6, 1986 to tie a major league record.

Horner became a free agent in 1987 but due to his injury history and a collusion by the owners, he could not find a contract to his liking.  Horner took his talents overseas to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of the Japanese League.  On a one year contract, Horner hit 31 home runs for the Swallows and looked to return to the U.S. in '88.  By now strictly a first baseman, Horner signed with the Cardinals.  Horner hit only three long balls in 60 games with the Redbirds before a season ending shoulder injury ended the hefty blond's season.  He received a spring training invite from the Orioles in '89, but the injury ravaged 31 year-old decided to retire.

Flipside:  Horner's '82 season was one of only two seasons in his career which he played more than 130 games.

Oddball:  Horner is one of the rare major league players to have never played in the minors.  Players who came after Horner and debuted in the majors, such as Jim Abbott and Pete Incaviglia both worked in the minors later in their thirties as they tried to resurrect their careers.

History:  Bob Horner was blessed with tremendous power and ability but could not stay healthy which led to a lot of disappointment for the Braves and their fans.  In ten injury riddled seasons, He hit 218 home runs and had an OPS+ over 100 every season.  Looking at his stats averaged over 162 games, he hit 35 bombs with 109 RBI.
Horner will always be remembered for his four home run game and as a big part of the Braves '82 team.  Horner enjoys a leisurely retirement and still follows the Braves.

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