Every now and then, Bob Horner will pop in a DVD to watch a black-and-white recording of Arizona State's national-title clinching win over South Carolina in the 1977 College World Series. But not to relax.
“It's really kind of intense to turn it on again and watch,” Horner said.
Someone recorded Arizona State's 2-1 win on a VHS tape, eventually transferred it over to DVD and gave the Sun Devil legend a couple of copies. Horner was the Most Outstanding Player in the 1977 CWS, batting .444, hitting two home runs and recording nine RBIs.
It was catcher Chris Bando who hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning to help his team to a title.
“I think I'm more nervous watching it now than when I was playing it,” Horner said. “Our pitcher, Jerry Vasquez, just went out and threw a gem. He just threw great. Their pitcher (Jim Lewis) threw a heck of a ballgame. They were mowing 'em down.”
That was just one of many memories flooding through Horner's mind this week as he returned to be inducted into the inaugural 2013 class of the Omaha College Baseball Hall of Fame. Also honored Wednesday were Rod Dedeaux (posthumously), Augie Garrido, Brooks Kieschnick, Robin Ventura and Dave Winfield.
Horner was a two-time All-American at Arizona State, and his 20 career RBIs at the CWS are still most in the event's history. He also played 10 seasons with the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals.
The World-Herald caught up with Horner to ask a few questions about his CWS memories and his playing career.
World-Herald: What's special about the CWS?
Horner: The experiences, if you're fortunate enough to get here, will last you a lifetime. The memories, the friendships that you made, the people that come up to you that you might have met at some function or a luncheon that was sponsored 35 years ago. That's the passion that's out there for this. It would be a shame if this event ever left Omaha. This is where it needs to be.
Q: Did you comprehend that as a player?
A: You step on that field and you know how important it is. There's only eight teams every year that make it that far. And it's not just about you. It's about representing the school and the team and the community. It's about the pressure cooker you're in out there. You're depending upon your teammates, they're depending upon you. So there's all kinds of emotions.
Q: How do you manage that?
A: If you start to think about it, then that's when you get paralyzed. You've just got to go with it. You're going to be nervous. You're going to have the cotton-mouth, the butterflies in the stomach. It's how you deal with it.
Q: Have to ask you about the four-home run game as a professional (Horner's one of 16 players to do it in MLB history). What do you remember about it?
A: It was just a run-of-the-mill Sunday afternoon. You don't plan anything like that happening. I'd hit two in a game before. I'd hit three in a game. In fact, I'd hit four in a game in summer ball up in Colorado. The guy made a couple mistakes early and I hit them out. He hung another one and I hit my third. It was still only in the fifth or sixth inning, and so then people started talking about it and I started thinking about it — which is exactly what you shouldn't do. And then (Jeff) Reardon just threw me a fastball right down the middle and I didn't miss it.
Q: You played a season in Japan in 1987. How different is the sport now in Japan as compared to then, you think?
A: There's Japanese players, Korean players. You see players from Australia, from China. They're scattered all throughout both leagues. That's all changed. It wasn't that way when I played over there. They've really improved their skills.
Q: The stories are that back in the day in Japan, you couldn't really go out in public. They all knew who you were.
A: Well, there's not a lot of blond-hairs in Japan. So you kind of stick out. ... It seemed like the best option at the time. They really wanted me bad to come over there. And I thought, heck, I can do anything for a year.