While Buster Posey won’t be behind the plate for the Giants in 2022, the memories he created with San Francisco will stand the test of time.
The seven-time All-Star catcher, who is expected to announce his retirement on Thursday, quickly became a beloved player by the Bay. That’s what happens when you win the National League Rookie of the Year and the NL MVP Awards and help lead your team to three World Series championships.
So as Posey hangs up his gear, here is a look back at 12 of his best moments — one per season he spent in the black and orange.
A much-anticipated debut
Sept. 11, 2009
Posey made his MLB debut less than two years after the Giants drafted him fifth overall out of Florida State University. The 22-year-old appeared as a defensive replacement that day against the Dodgers at AT&T (now Oracle) Park, striking out against Hiroki Kuroda in his only plate appearance. Posey wouldn’t see action again until Sept. 19, but on that day, he picked up his first Major League hit — after entering the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning, he singled to right field in the ninth for the first of exactly 1,500 career hits.
The Giants called Posey up from Triple-A Fresno in late May, and in his first game since his brief September callup the prior season, he went 3-for-4 with three singles and three RBIs. He never looked back from there, hitting .305/.357/.505 with 18 home runs in 108 games to win NL Rookie of the Year honors. And his regular-season heroics were just a precursor for what was to come that October, when Posey helped lead the Giants to their first World Series title in 56 years, and first since moving to San Francisco in 1958.
First postseason shutout caught
2010 NLDS Game 1
Posey has caught a whopping 14 team shutouts in the postseason, six more than any other catcher. The first came on Oct. 7 in his first postseason game, catching two-time reigning Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. Though the 14 shutouts include both individual and team feats, the first was a shutout all at the hands of Lincecum, who struck out 14 batters — tied for the most in a postseason debut. All eyes were on Lincecum that night, and with good reason, but it was also the beginning of a fruitful career behind the plate in October for Posey. The Giants have thrown 27 postseason shutouts, second most of any team, and Posey has caught half of them.
Healed and hungry
April 6, 2012
The previous May, Posey’s season had ended in horrific fashion, with the Marlins’ Scott Cousins plowing into him on a play at the plate. The damage included a fractured left fibula and torn left ankle ligaments. But after months of painstaking rehab, Posey was back in the Giants’ lineup on Opening Day 2012, picking up two hits at Arizona. As it turns out, he was just getting started, going on to enjoy the finest season of his distinguished career.
Matt Cain’s perfect game and more ‘Buster Hugs’
June 13, 2012
Giants fans coined the phrase “Buster Hugs” during the team’s 2010 season, to describe the customary pitcher-catcher hug after an epic moment. The first of note came when the Giants beat the Padres on the final day of the ‘10 season to clinch the division. Then, there were three more, one for each series clinch. But the first that wasn’t postseason related came after Cain threw the first perfect game in Giants history. The look of elation on the face of pitcher and catcher alike stands out. Posey caught three no-hitters, also behind the plate for Lincecum’s first, in 2013, and Chris Heston’s, in 2015.
The grand slam
2012 NLDS Game 5
Posey had his fair share of clutch moments across the Giants’ even-year World Series campaigns, and one of the most memorable came as the team completed a comeback from a 2-0 deficit against the Reds in 2012. After losing the first two games at home, the Giants headed to Cincinnati for three straight. They staved off elimination in extras in Game 3, won 8-3 in Game 4, and that brings us to Game 5. Facing Mat Latos, who had infamously expressed his dislike for the Giants when he was a member of the 2010 Padres, who lost the division to S.F., the score was tied at 0-0 in the fifth. Brandon Crawford hit an RBI triple and scored on a Zack Cozart error, and two batters later, Posey was up with the bases loaded. He crushed a grand slam, the third in Giants postseason history, and the Giants went on to win the game and series.
Posey’s return from a catastrophic leg injury was impressive in and of itself, but it became even more remarkable when he was named the 2012 NL MVP after hitting .336/.408/.549 (171 OPS+) with 24 home runs and 103 RBIs in 148 games. With his tremendous performance at and behind the plate, he helped the Giants win the NL West and reach the World Series for the second time in three seasons. He delivered a huge home run in Game 4 as San Francisco swept the Tigers.
The Giants led the Nationals 1-0 in the NLDS when Game 2 in Washington went into extra innings, thanks in part to Posey’s two-out single in the ninth that preceded Pablo Sandoval’s game-tying RBI double. And then it just kept going, and going, and going. Posey never strayed from behind the dish as the game went 18 innings, tied for the most in postseason history. The Giants eventually pulled out a win, with Posey helping eight pitchers allow a total of just one run. That game helped propel San Francisco on its third championship run in five seasons, as Posey caught all but two of 160 innings along the way.
Breaking Yadi’s golden streak
Posey and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina spent the decade of the 2010s as the two best catchers in baseball. While Posey was always a strong defensive backstop, Molina set the standard with seven straight Gold Glove Awards from 2009-15. But in ’16, Posey broke through and was awarded the NL’s Gold Glove Award behind the plate. He easily led all Major League catchers with 22 defensive runs saved that season.
Latest walk-off HR in Giants history
May 12, 2017
How does a seemingly innocuous regular-season game from May in a non-playoff year for the Giants wind up on this list? This is why baseball is the greatest — something historic can happen at any time. Johnny Cueto went eight innings for the Giants that night at Oracle Park, allowing two runs. Scott Feldman also allowed two, and the teams remained knotted at 2-2. The game marched on, past midnight local time, before Posey came to the plate against Robert Stephenson in the bottom of the 17th and crushed the first pitch he saw, ending the game. That was the latest walk-off home run in franchise history by innings, edging out a 16th-inning walk-off homer by Willie Mays off Warren Spahn in 1963.
A triumphant return
April 1, 2021
In 2020, the Giants played a season without Posey for the first time since 2008, as he chose to opt out of the pandemic-shortened campaign. Instead of squatting behind the plate, Posey spent time with his wife, Kristen, and his expanding young family. (The Poseys have four children, including twin girls they adopted that summer.) While that surely presented its own challenges, Posey returned refreshed in 2021, hitting far better than he had in 2018 and ‘19. He didn’t waste any time, either. On Opening Day at Seattle, in his first plate appearance back, Posey smacked a home run off Marco Gonzales. A day later, he went deep in his first opportunity again, this time off Yusei Kikuchi. Buster was back.
Giants’ postseason hit king
2021 NLDS Game 2
Posey continued his resurgent campaign with a two-run homer over the right-field wall off Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler in the first inning of NLDS Game 1 at Oracle Park. It was Posey’s 52nd career postseason hit, and in Game 2, Posey became the Giants’ playoffs hits leader thanks to a single to right field in the sixth inning, his 54th postseason hit. Posey would collect three more hits in the NLDS, the final playoff series of his storied career.