Why is it one of my favorites, you ask? (Thanks for asking) Because it’s just plain fun.
That is, if the player donning the oversized hat has a good sense of humor. Because if a player wears the “golden sombrero,” it means he struck out four times in a single game, and a good sense of humor is going to be very important in that scenario.
The term derives from hockey’s “hat trick,” where a player scores three goals in a single game. Apparently, some wisecrackin’ baseball joker decided to use the term to describe a player who struck out three times in a game, and the logical upgrade to four Ks in a single game would obviously be a golden version of the Mexican head-topper. Obviously.
In essence, the sombrero is just a bigger hat trick. And making it a "golden" sombrero…well, that’s just for comedic effect. And in that regard, the phrase is a complete success.
While managing the Cincinnati Reds, hall-of-fame reject Pete Rose was one of the first to use the term with the media, actually explaining it during a post-game interview in 1987. “We had two guys who got the 'Golden Sombrero' tonight,” Rose said. “You know what the Golden Sombrero is don't you? It's the hat trick plus one. Our No. 1 and No. 8 hitters struck out four times each."
Don Baylor is also linked to the origin as he uttered the phrase in an interview after a game, but he did not refer to the four strikeouts coming in a single game, so we cannot truly attribute the yellow-toned, sun-shader to him.
But the dubious distinctions of a strikeout hitter don’t end there. If you are unlucky enough to strikeout five times in a game, you’ll be crowned with the platinum sombrero, otherwise known as the “Olympic Rings.” That feat has been accomplished more than 40 times in the history of the major leagues with Dick Allen wracking up two himself.
No one has struck out six times (titanium sombrero) in a nine-inning game, but eight players have managed to whiff a half-dozen times during extra-inning affairs. Sam Horn did it for the Orioles in 1991, and his teammate Mike Flanagan said the six-strikeout game should consequently be referred to as a “Horn.” When asked about the term for a seven-strikeout game, Flanagan dubbed that a “Horn-a-Plenty.”
In the history of major league baseball, no one has ever struck out seven times in a game, but…
At the risk of being ostracized from the Sounds clubhouse, I feel compelled to relay the information that Brad Nelson has notched a “horn-a-plenty.” He achieved the mark in the Sounds epic 24-inning marathon against the New Orleans Zephyrs that spanned two days in May during the 2006 season. But come on, it was a 24-inning game. Give Reggie Jackson, Ryan Howard or Adam Dunn 24 innings, and I'm sure they'd manage to wrack up plenty of "horn-a-plenties."
Now, in celebration of the golden sombrero, let’s take a look at some of the greatest sombreros in the history of the magnificent, straw hat: