In November 2015, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Charlie Culberson to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. The move was unheralded and hardly caused a ripple. By September of the following year, Culberson cemented himself in franchise lore.
After playing sparingly with the club throughout the regular season, Culberson was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City in late-August and spent the remainder of the year with the Dodgers. Culberson provided positional flexibility and the majority of his at-bats came against left-handed pitching.
Such was the case on Sept. 25, 2016, with the Dodgers hosting the Colorado Rockies. The game was in the 10th inning of a back-and-forth affair, when Culberson clinched the Dodgers’ fourth consecutive National League West title with a walk-off home run.
Adding further drama to his heroic solo shot, Culberson’s hit came in Vin Scully’s final home game of his career.
Typically, a home run of that nature results in the player obtaining possession of the ball. Culberson’s historic homer has evaded his hands.
However, it isn’t something the 27-year-old dwells on, according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times:
“As weird as it sounds, it doesn’t bother me that I never got the ball back,’’ Culberson said from his home in Smyrna, Ga. “It’s a pretty cool souvenir for the person who has it, and sure I would love it, but I wouldn’t blame them for keeping it.”
Culberson laughed in his soft Southern drawl and added, “They can have the ball, I’ll always have the story.’’
Although Culberson does not have the home run ball in his possession, Scully signed the bat that was used to clinch the NL West. What’s more, Scully’s call of the homer won a 2016 Esurance MLB Award.
Culberson is set for another season with the Dodgers organization, as he signed a one-year contract in December. The Dodgers sent the utility man outright to Triple-A Oklahoma City shortly after, removing Culberson from the 40-man roster.
He’s one of two known players slated to join the club during Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.