SAM HORN swings away
Twenty-five men have been in an Opening Day lineup for the Baltimore Orioles a Designated Hitter. There’s been a Hall of Famer (Eddie Murray), ten other All-Stars (Tommy Davis, Lee May, Ken Singleton, Harold Baines, Bobby Bonilla, Brady Anderson, Joe Carter, Jeff Conine & Javy Lopez), and a few guys that I don’t exactly recall as DH-types (Tony Muser, Rich Dauer, Alan Wiggins). The rest…were somewhere in between.
It all started in 1973, when Terry Crowley stroked a pair of opposite-field singles in four trips in a 10-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Memorial Stadium. For the next 16 years though, Orioles DH’s batted a measly .145 in season openers. Lee May’s triple in 1979 was the only extra-base hit, and only John Lowenstein managed an RBI. “Steiner” didn’t even have to swing the bat to do it, instead drawing the fourth straight free pass issued by Texas Rangers knuckleballer Charlie Hough in the 1985 opener. (Hough didn’t allow a hit in six innings, but departed after walking eight!).
Things finally started to change in 1990. On Opening Day in Kansas City, Sam Horn clobbered a three-run homer off defending Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen in his first Orioles at bat. Horn added a pair of singles before the afternoon was through, and added another three-run shot off reliever Steve Farr in the eighth to send the game into extra innings. (The Orioles won in eleven when Cal Ripken’s two-out single was mishandled)
Starting with Horn’s big day, Orioles starting DH’s have batted .348 in the first game of the season, though only Marty Cordova managed to join the home run parade (in 2003). Overall, they’ve combined for a .264/.361/.392 (.753 OPS) line in thirty-six openers.
Here are some of the standouts:
Ken Singleton became the first to start three straight openers as a DH (from 1982-84). Though he batted just a combined .100 in three contests, he did set an Opening Day club record for DH’s by walking three times in 1982.
Horn matched Singleton with his third straight start in 1992, going 2-2 with a walk in the first ever game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards to raise his Opening Day average as an Orioles DH to .667.
Harold Baines started the next three openers, then became the only Orioles DH to start the season’s first game four times in his final tour of duty with the team in 2000. He had a pair of two-hit games & a pair of 0-fors to finish at .267 overall.
It took 24 years, but Bobby Bonilla finally stroked the first Opening Day double by an Orioles DH in 1996. Joe Carter (ninety-eight) & David Segui (2004) have since joined him.
Segui, in 2004, and Brady Anderson in 1997 are the only players hit-by-pitches. On a more positive note, they’re also the only players with three-hit games (Segui in 2002 & Anderson in ’97) outside of Horn’s four-hit masterpiece.
Here’s the complete list of Opening Day Orioles Designated Hitters:
Four times – HAROLD BAINES
Three times – KEN SINGLETON & SAM HORN
Twice – TOMMY DAVIS, LEE MAY, LARRY SHEETS & DAVID SEGUI
Once: TERRY CROWLEY, TONY MUSER, EDDIE MURRAY, RICH DAUER, JOSE MORALES, JOHN LOWENSTEIN, MIKE YOUNG, ALAN WIGGINS, BOBBY BONILLA, BRADY ANDERSON, JOE CARTER, JEFF CONINE, CHRIS RICHARD, MARTY CORDOVA, JAY GIBBONS, JAVY LOPEZ, KEVIN MILLAR & AUBREY HUFF
by Malcolm Allen