The Boston Red Sox made a very difficult decision last year. They decided that Sam Horn was not the kind of player to carry them to a division title, so they handed him his unconditional release.
Horn has a different version of the story. He says he never got a chance to carry the Red Sox, but last night he got a chance to drop them and he didn't waste it. His three-run home run in the fifth inning helped drop them out of first place for the first time since July 30.
The shot wasn't heard around the world, but it was heard as far away as Toronto, where the Blue Jays moved into sole possession of the American League East lead when the Baltimore Orioles scored an 8-4 victory over the Red Sox on a rainy night at Memorial Stadium.
The Red Sox were already slumping, but it doesn't get any more frustrating than this.
"I'm sure it will stick in their minds that Sam Horn damaged their chances," he said, "especially if they continue to slip away."
If Horn could not carry the Red Sox, he can still carry a grudge. He reveled in the victory over his former teammates after a game that very possibly will be remembered as one of the games that cost Boston the division title.
"All I can say is that I hope so," he said. "For whatever reason, they thought they had guys who could do the job better than I could. If they have people who can do the job I did when I was playing there, I'm happy for them."
Horn's 13th home run of the season broke a 2-2 tie and, in essence, decided the three-game series. It also solidified his position on the Orioles roster on the night before the club begins an organizational summit that could determine the makeup of the team in 1991.
The Red Sox lost for the 12th time in their past 17 games and continue to do the big fade, turning a 6 1/2 -game lead into a one-game deficit in the space of 15 days.
Horn continued to move up on the Orioles' depth chart. His 13 homers and 42 RBI in just 218 at-bats leave room to wonder what he could do in a full season. Manager Frank Robinson has hinted that he'll try to find that out next year.
That question was never answered in Boston, where Horn had one terrific half-season before gradually slipping out of favor with the Red Sox organization.
He slipped out of favor in the Orioles organization earlier this year and was designated for assignment in June, only to return after a month with the Rochester Red Wings to work his way back into the team's plans.
He also slipped out of favor with plate umpire Rocky Roe in the eighth inning and was ejected from the game for disputing a called strike, but that was too late to do the Red Sox any good.
The former Red Sox factor went even further than that. Reliever Curt Schilling, who came from Boston in the Mike Boddicker deal, picked up for struggling starter Anthony Telford in the sixth and worked the final four innings to earn his third save.
The Red Sox were coming off a discouraging Tuesday night, one in which Tom Bolton lost a no-hit bid in the seventh inning and the club went on to cede the last remnant of the 6 1/2 -game lead it held over the surging Blue Jays on Sept. 4.
The frustration even boiled over in the clubhouse after that game, when catcher Tony Pena blasted the team for letting down after the Orioles came from behind.
The mood turned somber last night. The only sound coming out of the Boston locker room was that of starting pitcher Greg Harris rebuking himself for giving up the home run to Horn.
"I was just a stupid idiot to let Sam Horn beat me in a game that means as much as this," he said. "I let everybody down. I didn't do what I was supposed to do. It will take a long time to live that one down. There's no way I should get beat by that man. I pitched around Cal [Ripken] to get to him. That [Horn] is the guy I wanted to pitch to. I made a bad pitch. That should have never happened."
Harris cruised through the heart of the Orioles order the first time through, but ran into trouble in the third inning when he got to the eighth and ninth spots.
Rookie catcher Chris Hoiles led off with a double to left, and Bill Ripken tied the game with a sharp liner into right-center. Ripken moved to third on a one-out single by Brady Anderson (former Red Sox factor in effect again) and scored on a wild pitch to give Baltimore the lead.
It didn't last very long. Mike Greenwell opened the fourth with a base hit, moved up on a one-out walk to Mike Marshall and scored on a single by Pena to tie the game again.
Telford further complicated the situation with a wild pitch -- which left runners at second and third with one out -- but got out of the inning when rookie first baseman David Segui made a fine over-the-shoulder basket catch on a foul pop by Luis Rivera and Jody Reed flied out meekly to left field.
The Orioles finally ran Harris out in the fifth, when Steve Finley led off with a single and Cal Ripken drew a one-out walk to set up Horn's big swing."