By Jon Weisman
The most memorable home run of a big-leaguer’s life might not even be in his big-league life. Sometimes, the big blow is an obvious one, but other times, it’s one you might never have known about if you never asked.
So, we asked.
See what we mean in the stories that follow from these members of the Dodger family …
I remember my first one ever. I don’t even remember running around the bases or anything like that. It was when I was 9 years old. I was playing on a team with my brother (Klay). My oldest brother (Mychel), he always knew I had power — he always believed. He was the best support system, still, to this day, for me and Klay. He’s the best, your typical older brother. But Klay never believed, because Klay’s always so competitive, he never believed that I had power. So I hit a home run, and I don’t even remember going around the bases, but Klay was on the team, and I got in the dugout and remember just being like, “See?”
My first (MLB homer), kind of the same thing. I don’t even remember running around the bases. … Now thinking about it, it’s the same exact feeling that I had, but I didn’t think about it at the time.
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Hey, you know what? My most memorable home run was in Double-A (1998), against John Smoltz. So he was on a rehab assignment. I was at Jacksonville. And this is the first time I ever faced a Major League pitcher. And I hit a home run off him in the first inning. And I got him to sign the baseball. I was probably 26. I got the home-run ball. Southern League baseball. He wasn’t too happy about it, but he said, “I’ll sign it for the kid.”
But as far as in the big leagues, I think my first homer (August 30, 1999), Ramon Ortiz, Jacobs Field, right-center field, fastball maybe. And you know – you always remember your first.
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I hit a walkoff home run (May 30, 2010) when I was with the Angels. It was actually the day after Kendrys Morales broke his ankle on home plate. He hit a walkoff the day before, and the next night I hit a walkoff right behind it. So that’s probably one of my most memorable moments. I didn’t (watch my step crossing home plate) actually, because that was kind of a freak accident. It was kind of pretty sad to see it happen that way, but there’s nothing anybody could have done any differently.
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Hard one to answer. I think most of the times I hit a memorable home run, we lost the game, so it becomes not memorable. … A couple of playoff home runs that come to mind. Playing in Game 163 when we played the Rockies (October 1, 2007), in the famous no-tag, I hit a grand slam. All those, when I remember them, we lost the game. So it makes it not as good.
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The only time I hit a walkoff homer was in A ball, when my family just got there on the same day I happened to hit a walkoff homer. But my first career homer (July 2, 2014 for Houston) was insane. My family was there (for) my first big-league start. I hit a home run, and after the game, my phone was blowing up, but more than about my homer, it was just people telling me I had to watch the replay, because the TV channel happened to do a split-screen live of my family in the stands, in my at-bat. It was pretty cool just to watch my mom and dad and my agent and their reactions, because I had two strikes, and they were kind of just focused on the at-bat.
The look on their face was like “he’s got two strikes —don’t strike out,” and all of a sudden I hit the homer. To be able to see my parents just stand up and start jumping like little kids, that was pretty cool.
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Scott Van Slyke
I remember the first home run I ever hit — that was pretty memorable. I was 5. I don’t remember the situation, but it went over the center-field wall. I think the fences were about 150 feet or something. I was (surprised), that’s why I remember it. Excited.
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Probably the first career one (September 12, 2015). I don’t even really remember it — it’s kind of just a blur. I remember until about halfway to first base, seeing it go over, and then from there it’s just kind of dark.
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My first home run that I remember was probably my first walkoff in the big leagues (for Tampa Bay on March 31, 2003) against the Red Sox. You just feel good to win a game with a homer — that’s what you always want to do. I mean, I feel like everybody dreams of that. They want to win a game with a home run. They tell us not to do that when you go up to the plate, but you know, if it happens, you’re really happy about it.
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Probably my first game I started, in Colorado (June 30, 2012), first big-league hit, from the right-hand side, then the second big-league hit (was also a homer) from the left-hand side. Fastball up and in, and a changeup down and away.
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It’s only funny because it just came up. So, I wasn’t great at baseball when I was young, and when I played, I had a buddy, one of my best friends in other sports like soccer and football, and we were on the same team in baseball. And it was like the Little League playoffs, maybe first or second year of kid-pitch, maybe (age) 10. It feels like it’s midnight, but it’s probably like 7:30, because we’re so young. And it’s like second and third, and the reason I know this is because (my buddy) was just in Denver, and he’s one of my good friends so we met up — that’s where he lives and works now — and he brought it up. He was like, “You remember that?” And I was like, “Yeah, I didn’t, but I do now.”
He was telling me, second and third, first base was open, so their coach said to basically walk me, so he’s throwing balls like head-high. And he throws a ball head-high, and I tomahawk it, over the fence, to basically win the game. So I guess that might be one of the only home runs I ever hit. Didn’t hit any in high school, didn’t hit in college, so that would probably be it.
It felt like a big deal at the time, but now it’s fun to talk about. I remember watching it go — one of those that you hit and didn’t really know if it was a bomb — and I watch and it goes over, and I think my dad was coaching first base, so I gave him a big high five.
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I’d say my first home run in the big leagues (April 12, 2015), because it’s something you dream about, and it’s pretty cool. It was in Arizona, 3-2 count, fastball.
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For me, probably my first home run in the big leagues (for Philadelphia, April 24, 2003). It was my first hit in the big leagues. It was a grand slam. It was off Aaron Cook. It was fairly surreal, obviously. It happened pretty quickly, but I was just pretty excited about it.
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Charlie Culberson (previously published)
Sometimes, the game, it gets a little bit different-feeling. You’re in the big leagues, and just trying to stay or what not, but a couple years ago, I was able to pinch-hit for the Rockies, bottom of the ninth, down by a run. I had a pinch-hit walkoff homer. That kind of made me realize, I love the game — I really love the game — but things like that make you feel like a little kid again. So honestly, I’ve enjoyed the ups and downs, but that was probably the highlight of my career. Yeah, it made me feel like a kid running around the bases.
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Against James Rodney Richard (October 2, 1977), pinch-hit home run at Dodger Stadium. I just closed my eyes, made contact and the ball went out. We were losing. The situation was, Tommy Lasorda was looking for someone to pinch-hit against him, and no one wants to. … I say, “Tommy, I’ll hit. The only thing he can do is strike me out.” Then I said, “I’m gonna take first pitch.” I see if he’s going to try me with a fastball inside. That will give me a message: How’s he gonna pitch me? I say the next pitch is going to be middle inside, (and) I’m going to try to get the fat part of the bat in front. If I miss that one, I’m dead, because after that he’s going to go to slider. Luckily, I make contact, and the ball went into the bullpen.
OK, I’m coming back to the dugout, and everybody’s down on the floor. And then later I find out, Davey Lopes told the guys, if I hit a base hit today off J.R., he’ll buy dinner for everybody.
(Note: This was the same inning that the legend, however true, of Glenn Burke inventing the high five was born. Mota’s homer — the 31st and last of his career — cut the Astros’ lead to 3-1. Two outs later, Dusty Baker hit his 30th home run of the season, giving the Dodgers MLB’s first quartet of 30-homer hitters. Burke, the on-deck hitter, congratulated Baker — and then stepped up and homered off Richard himself. That was the only home run Burke hit as a Dodger.)
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In the long run, it didn’t work out for us, but just the feeling of hitting in the playoffs, running around the bases. It was a splitter from (Edward) Mujica. Game 5 of the 2013 NLCS (October 16, 2013) to help keep us alive. We ended up winning the game and taking the trip back to St. Louis, but in the moment, to be part of that and stave off elimination, keep us playing, just the energy and the jolt of the crowd. … No, it’s definitely more fulfilling (than the dream), because when you do it in the dream setting, you’re only feeling the internal excitement. You actually get to feel the external excitement of what you’ve done for the fanbase, of what you’ve done in the stadium, the way the stadium comes alive, the energy — you can’t imagine that until it actually happens.
I’m fortunate to hit two playoff home runs in my career, and both have just been ridiculous feelings, running around the bases with floods of emotion. I’d like to hit one that helps lead to a Series win one of these days.
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