If you need any help looking for cards to chase for your favorite players, then Five to Collect is here to help. These aren’t necessarily the five best cards for a player. The list won’t always include a rookie card. The list is simply five cards that are interesting and show off both the best of the player and the best of baseball cards.
It’s not hard to imagine Bob Horner hitting four home runs in a game, which he did on July 6, 1986 for the Braves against the Montreal Expos. It was one of those games where seemingly every Braves fan was tuned to TBS. He hit a majestic shot to left off Andy McGaffigan in the 2nd. He would repeat that shot in the 4th. Both of those shots were hit with the bases empty and the Braves falling behind fast. By the 5th inning, the Braves were down eight runs with only Horner’s homers on the scoreboard.
I’d like to sell this as a feel good story about the team, but the team lost that day. In fact, being behind helped Horner out. As Horner himself told the AJC, “ Every time I came up to bat, we’re behind, so the pitchers, luckily for me, are trying to come after me because they had nothing to lose.” So, in the fifth, with Jeff Dedmon and Ken Oberkfell on base, Horner would pull another McGaffigan pitch over the wall in left. That was as close as the Braves would come. Still, it’s hard to forget that moment when Horner crushed a Jeff Reardon pitch to deep left in the bottom of the ninth.
A lot of Braves fans memories have turned back to Bob Horner’s feat in the wake of Josh Hamilton’s four home run game this past week. How can you not remember an accomplishment that is even rarer than a perfect game? I’m not sure how the average Braves fan remembers Horner. He may well have been the Braves second most popular player after Dale Murphy when TBS baseball exploded nationally in the early 80s. His career was hampered by both injuries and allegedly his weight. He only played nine seasons for the Braves and one for the Cardinals. As a result of collusion, he spent one season playing in Japan. It wasn’t a long career, but I dare say, most Braves fans remember him, and not just for that game against the Expos in 1986.
In their post-season, hobby store only boxed set from 1986, Highlights, Donruss would celebrate Horner’s achievement. Ignore that odious yellow and black border, this is a wonderful card. That’s a great shot of Horner’s powerful follow through and it’s a wonderful memento from one of the more memorable moments in Braves history.
Bob Horner didn’t just hit home runs. Balls that jumped off his bat went a long, long way. He would set high school home run records at Apollo High School in Glendale, Arizona. He would set the Arizona State University record for most home runs by a freshman in 1976. His 58 home runs over his three seasons at ASU were, for a time, the NCAA all-time home run record. He would be named MVP of the 1977 College World Series. He entered the amateur draft at the conclusion of the Sun Devils 1978 season and the Braves would take him with the first pick in the draft.
Expectations were high for Horner at the point he was drafted. The Braves decided he was ready to make an impact immediately and installed him as the team’s starting third baseman. Bob Horner would not play a single game of minor league baseball. In his first game in an Atlanta Braves uniform, he would ground and fly out in his first two at-bats. He was facing the Pittsburgh Pirates best starter, Bert Blyleven, but any notion that the Hall of Fame pitcher had Horner’s number was erased in the 6th inning. With two outs, the Braves young catcher who was hitting in front of Bob Horner, Dale Murphy, rapped a single to left. The bonus baby college phenom then stepped to the plate and crushed a home run.
He would hit 22 more home runs over the remaining 88 games of his rookie season. At the end of the year, he was voted Rookie of the Year over the Wizard, Ozzie Smith. He would also be named to the 1978 Topps All Time Rookie team. His rookie card, pictured here, was included in the 1979 set featuring his ROY campaign statistics on the back. It’s not a great card. The picture is simply odd and the shadow over most of his face is unfortunate. For reasons known only to Topps, this was one of a run of years where they stopped including the All-Star Rookie trophy symbol on the card. No matter, if you were a Braves fan in the late 70s and early 80s, you want this card.
1985 Donruss #77
This just may be Bob Horner’s best baseball card. It captures everything a Braves fan can remember about Horner. A mammoth swing? Check. Expanding waistline? Check. A powder blue uniform? Check. Best of all, all of this is captured on a 1985 Donruss baseball card. This set, which was the first black bordered set released by a major card manufacturer since the 1971 Topps set, featured all of the issues common with a black bordered set. The sides showed every nick and scratch as if under a magnifying glass. The black borders also seemed to magnify a card that was off-center. No matter though, black borders at the time were rare and beautiful. This is one of the all-time great sets and one of the great Braves cards from the 80s.
2003 Topps Archives Fan Favorites Autograph #FFA-BH
The manufacturers haven’t been rushing Horner’s signature into their sets. The only other auto I could find that wasn’t unlicensed or an ugly cut card without a photo was a 1999 Fleer card that was especially ugly. Here we have Bob Horner featured on a card with the 1982 Topps design. I would imagine that the photo is from the same session as his base 1982 Topps card. (There seem to be a lot of posed photographs of Bob Horner with a batting cage behind him.) The blue signature tends to blend in a bit with the blue jacket, but if you want a certified Horner autograph, this is the card to get.
1983 Topps Glossy Send-Ins #12
For a big guy who hit home runs, Bob Horner had something of a baby face. Many fans remember him with the silly mustache featured on the 1984 version of this same card. This is the better card because here, Bob Horner looks like a mountain guy who hits long home runs. There’s even a resemblance to Brian McCann, another baby faced Brave with facial hair. Horner was gone from MLB by the time the manufacturers starting using photo quality stock, but these glossy cards from Topps come closest to showcasing their photos in the same fashion. This is easily the best posed shot card released of Horner.