Look out Deion: After only 879 at-bats, Horn is on your triple heels

Ken Rosenthal

May 06, 1992|By Ken Rosenthal

He did it!

Don't care if Texas leftfielder Kevin Reimer would have held the ball diving onto any other warning track but the crash-and-burn drag-strip at Camden Yards. Don't care if our hero stumbled into third base like a marathoner collapsing at the finish line.

Sam "Deion" Horn hit his first major-league triple yesterday -- off Nolan Ryan, no less. It goes without saying that the event rendered the Orioles' 5-3 loss to Texas inconsequential. The moment was so epic, Mark McLemore described it as "bigger than life."

As if on cue, the heavens opened shortly after Horn's historic blow, delaying play for 62 minutes after the second inning. At that point, the game was not yet official, and the tension was unbearable.

Would Horn's triple be washed out?

Or would justice prevail?

Let history record that nearly five years after his major-league debut with Boston, the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Horn finally got his triple. Mind you, he still hasn't stolen a base or executed a sacrifice bunt in 319 career games, but all in due time, friends, all in due time.

In fact, Horn should have stolen home to erase another big zero from his statistical profile. The Orioles stranded him at third after he hit his opposite-field triple with none out. It was as if they won the lottery, and failed to cash the ticket.

But enough about the game.

The updated triples standings:

Deion Sanders, 7.

Brady Anderson, 4.

Horn, 1.

"He wasn't running bad," Anderson said, clearly impressed by his competition. "He came around second, and he was gettin' it. He stretched it out. He said, 'I'm sick of this, I'm getting a triple.' "

It took only 879 at-bats, but who's counting?

Horn, 28, last hit a triple at Triple-A Pawtucket in 1989. He also had three at Single-A Winston Salem in '84, and one at Single-A Elmira in '82, his first year of pro ball. That's six triples for Horn in 11 seasons. Sanders has seven the last four weeks.

All right, so Sam's a little behind, but Orioles manager Johnny Oates said, "Now he knows the route." Anderson, in fact, said Horn should already have two triples this season, but he stopped at second after a double in Kansas City, apparently too mortified to venture the final 90 feet.

"He [Anderson] came to me and said, 'You've got to go for it,' " Horn recalled. "I said, 'I prefer to hit doubles, dingers and drive in runs. The triples I leave to you fast guys.' "

Until yesterday, of course.

Reimer made a spectacular leap for an attempted backhand grab on Horn's fly, but the ball jarred loose as he hit the warning track. According to baseball rules, a fielder must voluntarily release the ball from his glove for a play to be ruled a catch.

"In football, the ground can't cause a fumble," Oates explained. "In baseball, it can."

Reimer landed so hard, he left skid marks on the harsh Tartan surface. "It's nice, it's clean, it looks good," the leftfielder said. "But with dirt, you hit it and slide. This is more unforgiving. It grabs you and holds onto your uniform. I had it . . ."

But he lost it.

"I saw him catch it over his head, backpedaling," Horn said. "When I saw him fall and the ball pop out, I said, 'I'm going to get there no matter what.' I would have been happy with a double. But when he dropped it, I had to have a triple out of the deal."

If only the story ended there.

"I think we need to ask him about the slide," Gregg Olson said.

"What slide?" Oates asked. "You mean his laydown."

In any case, Horn was so overcome by his feat, he forgot to celebrate. In a defiant moment earlier this season, he spoke of hoisting third base over his head, a la Rickey "I am the greatest" Henderson. But yesterday, he conceded, "That was all talk."

The question now is when he'll get his stolen base. Anderson suggested a delayed double steal of home, with speedy Mike Devereaux on the front end. "He's not ridiculously slow, you know," Anderson said of Horn. "He gets going all right."

Horn wasn't making any predictions; he had other things on his mind. His 23-month-old son Jamale yesterday underwent surgery correct a soft spot on his scalp. Horn learned during the rain delay that the operation was a success, and we relate this message on his behalf.

Get well soon, Jamale.

Daddy did it!

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