On one side of the family was a Hall of Fame first baseman, on the other an outfielder involved in one of the more famous plays in World Series lore. The baseball genes were there for Charlie Culberson.
“I guess you could say that,” Culberson agreed, “it’s neat to have that history.”
Culberson is the newest Giant, the second baseman who was in the minors Saturday night and in the bigs Sunday afternoon. “A dream come true,” he said, “but now that I’m here, it would be nice to stay. I just have to play the game.”
A game he’s played all his life. A game which seemingly he had mastered at Calhoun High School, some 70 miles north of Atlanta. A game which seemingly mastered Culberson his first year in pro baseball in 2008.
“I went through a lot of struggles,” said Culberson, who that season batted .234 at Class A Augusta, “and it helped me become the ballplayer I am today.”
The ballplayer who hit .290 for the San Jose Giants in 2010, the ballplayer hitting .284 for Fresno and the ballplayer who in his first major league game against the Diamondbacks produced his first major league hit, a single.
That ball, on which equipment manager Mike Murphy wrote, “Charlie Culberson, 1st big league hit, 5/13/2012,” temporarily is in a sock in his locker.
“I was thinking what I would do with it,” said Culberson, 23, “and my wife [Sarah] and I are expecting our first child, a girl, in October. I’m going to set it up in her room.”
Culberson’s second game, his first at AT&T Park on Monday night, was somewhat less memorable. He was 0-for-4.
“Going along,” Culberson conceded, “you learn the failures of baseball. Things are going to happen.”
Culberson’s father, Charles Sr., was in the Giants system in the 1980s but only made it to Double-A. “When I got called up, he was as excited as if he would have been.”
George Sisler, who hit .420 in 1920 for the old St. Louis Browns and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939, is part of his mother’s family tree.
Another relative, Leon Culberson, a cousin to Charlie’s grandfather, was the Red Sox center fielder in the seventh game of the 1946 World Series against the Cardinals. With the game tied and Enos Slaughter on first, Harry Walker lined a hit. Leon Culberson bobbled, shortstop Johnny Pesky hesitated momentarily with the relay and Slaughter completed what was labeled the “Mad Dash” to score the winning run.
“When I was 16, I went to Fenway [in Boston],” said Culberson, “got to meet Johnny Pesky and talk about Slaughter. It was pretty neat.”
So was having his entire family arise early Sunday, jet from Atlanta to Phoenix and attend his inaugural game.
Culberson is aware of the past. His task is to deal with the present.
“I felt like we needed some help on the right side at the back of the order,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, alluding both to how Culberson bats and where he is positioned on defense. “I know Charlie. I saw some of his at-bats in spring training. He’s a threat. He’s aggressive. He knows what he’s doing.”
With that family legacy, he should.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.