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On This Date in Sports June 6, 1978: Drafted to the Field

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The Atlanta Braves select Arizona State star Bob Horner with the first overall pick in the MLB Draft. Horner was helping to lead the Sun Devils to an appearance in the College World Series. The Braves would waste no time in bringing Horner to the majors as he made his debut ten days later. With 23 home runs in 89 games, Bob Horner would be named Rookie of the Year.

Born August 6, 1957, in Junction City, Kansas, and was raised in Glendale, Arizona Bob Horner was the can’t miss prospect in college baseball with Arizona State. In 1977, Horner led the Sun Devils to a National Championship and was the Most Outstanding Player at the College World Series. In 1978, Bob Horner set a new NCAA record with 58 career home runs and won the inaugural Golden Spikes Award given to the best amateur baseball player. Bob Horner also set the single-season record with 25 homers. The Sun Devils would play in the College World Series again, while the draft was going on. This time Arizona State fell just short losing the final to USC.

A week after the College World Series came to an end, and ten days after he was drafted Bob Horner made his Major League Debut with the Atlanta Braves without playing a game in the minor leagues. In his first game on June 16th, Bob Horner homered off Bert Blyleven of the Pittsburgh Pirates as he had one hit in three at-bats as the Braves lost to the Pirates 9-4 at Fulton County Stadium. Horner provided a little excitement for a down-and-out Braves team that finished in last place for the second straight season at 69-93. In 89 games Bob Horner hit .266, with 23 home runs and 63 RBI as he beat out Ozzie Smith of the San Diego Padres to win the National League Rookie of the Year.

Bob Horner put up great power numbers in his first two full seasons in the majors ranking among the league leaders in home runs with 33 in 1979 and 35 in 1980, despite missing significant time due to injuries. Bob Horner made his first and only All-Star Game appearance in 1982, when he hit 32 home runs with 97 RBI, as the Atlanta Braves won the National League Western Division Championship. Over the next two seasons, injuries continue to hamper Horner as played in just 136 games combined in 1983 and 1984. Back healthy in 1985, Bob Horner hit 27 home runs, with 89 RBI, and again hit 27 home runs with 87 RBI in 1986. During the 1986 season, Horner had the best game of his career with four home runs against the Montreal Expos on July 6th.

After the 1986 season, Bob Horner became a free agent. With the owners colluding to keep salaries low, Horner found no suitable offers and stunned the baseball world by signing with the Yakult Swallows in Japan. Given the number 50 for as many homers as was expected of him, Horner hit 31 homers with 73 RBI in 1987. Bob Horner returned to the majors in 1988, signing with the St. Louis Cardinals. However, he clashed with manager Whitey Herzog who openly spoke out against the signing, questioning Horner’s toughness after his troubling injury history and his commitment to remain in shape. Bob Horner played just 60 games in St. Louis with three home runs. He attempted a comeback the following swing with the Baltimore Orioles but retired due to his nagging injuries.

After his career ended Bob Horner was part of a class-action suit that successfully went after Major League owners for lost wages due to the collision that forced him to sign in Japan.