Willie Horton and the American League provided further evidence last night that there is something in the baseball this season.

Horton hit three home runs and drove in eight as the American League scored 24 straight runs to defeat the National League, 24-11, in the sixth annual National Old Timers Baseball Classic before 23,115 at RFK Stadium.

Horton went four for four as the American League produced nine home runs among its 21-hit arsenal. The NL wasn't exactly inept offensively, with 16 hits and four homers.

"I just came in to have fun and beat up guys I haven't played against in a long time," Horton said. "I just did things I've been doing all my life. Some of us come out here and do better than others, but we all came out for the same thing -- enjoyment."

Trailing, 11-0, the AL hit five homers in the third inning -- four off Jim Bunning, one off Johnny Podres -- and tied the score. Dick McAuliffe (grand slam), Horton, Boog Powell, Rocky Colavito (two homers, six RBI) and pitcher Catfish Hunter connected.

"I got lucky," Hunter said. "I just swung at it. It was right over the plate."

"We needed a ticket to catch the ball," said former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lou Brock.

Colavito, Bill Freehan and Hunter singled to begin the third. With the bases loaded, McAuliffe hit Bunning's 1-1 pitch to right-center to cut the NL lead to 11-4.

Cookie Rojas reached on an error before Horton hit his first homer, a shot to left. Powell followed with a towering drive to right field, some 300 feet away, to make it 11-7.

Powell was jokingly led around third base and touched home with the help of former umpire Jim Honochick, who has teamed with Powell in a series of beer commercials.

Brooks Robinson singled and Colavito got his second hit of the inning, a homer just beyond the reach of left fielder Billy Williams. After Freehan doubled, National League Manager Bill Virdon replaced Bunning with Podres.

Joe Garagiola, the NL's catcher during the American League's big inning, was asked what type of pitches he was calling for.

"Didn't have any {signs}. It didn't matter. I kept calling for the ball. It never got to me," Garagiola said. "Bunning was just laying them in there. It's a tribute to him, because the fans loved it."

From a nearby locker, Gaylord Perry, who pitched the first two innings, had a different hypothesis.

"He was calling the wrong pitches, Joe was," Perry said. "I should've talked to {starting catcher} Del Crandall. He called good pitches."

Podres then laid one in himself, and Hunter drove it 400 feet to center to tie the score.

"Yeah, I'm going to tell my American Legion boys about that," said Hunter, who coaches a team. "When they get behind, they always give up."

The American Leaguers kept up the barrage in the fourth. They quickly loaded the bases for Colavito, who unloaded a grand slam off former Dodger Ralph Branca to give the AL its first lead, 15-11.

There was more. Freehan reached on an error, and former Washington Senator Bob Allison singled. McAuliffe then singled to drive in Freehan, his fifth run batted in.

With two on and one out, Horton crushed Branca's 3-1 pitch to center for his second homer and a 19-11 AL lead.

In the fifth, Allison homered to drive in Jim Price before Horton connected again, on a 2-0 pitch off former Montreal Expos pitcher Bill Stoneman that barely eluded Brock's grasp.

American League coach Chuck Stevens said his and Manager Luke Appling's orders once the National League took its 11-0 lead were simple.

"Just to kill," he said. "You get something started like that and it's just hard to turn off. There isn't anybody who voluntarily looks bad."

Said Powell, "All these guys here, when they see a pitcher, when they go out on the field, react the same as 20 years ago or 10 years ago. The bodily functions might not be the same, the speed might not be on the ball, but everything else is there."

For a while, it looked as if the NL would run away with it. Brock led off the first with a single and Williams followed in kind, bringing up Hank Aaron.

Before you could say "all-time home run leader," Aaron drove a 1-0 pitch off Jim Perry, who had come in after Early Wynn threw the first pitch of the game, into the left field stands for a 3-0 NL lead.

The next hitter, Dick Allen, sent a 1-0 pitch to center for a homer. Crandall, Bill Mazeroski, Don Kessinger, Orlando Cepeda and Brock scored in a nine-run first inning off Jim Perry and Bob Feller.

Roy McMillan and Cepeda homered in the second.

"You gotta remember that this is just a small ballpark," said former St. Louis Browns pitcher Ned Garver. "On top of that, everyone was trying to hit the ball out."

It was surprising that the American League had any energy left following a memorable rundown in the bottom of the second. Brock was on first base when Williams drove Hunter's pitch to the base of the right field wall. Horton threw to Powell, who caught Williams between first and second.

Then the fun began. Powell chased Williams toward second, and threw to Freehan to keep Brock at third. Freehan then threw back to Powell, who threw to former Red Sox second baseman Bobby Doerr, who threw to Robinson.

When it was all over, Freehan tagged Brock out and the official scorer could only estimate how to score the play.