SAN FRANCISCO — Felipe Alou, the former Giants manager, had a saying: When the man is better than the player, you’ve really got something.
“As great a player, he’s an even better man,” said former GM Brian Sabean, relaying Alou’s wisdom in a recent interview with the Bay Area News Group. Before reading further, you already know who he is talking about.
You know because Saturday was the day the Giants celebrated that man, Buster Posey, in an hourlong pregame ceremony. But you would also know from countless conversations with former teammates, coaches and competitors.
After all, a few other players could have generated the lovefest that took place Saturday at Oracle Park.
Buster Posey, the player, won a rookie of the year. An MVP. He paraded down Market Street three times. He will be one day be immortalized in bronze.
Buster Posey, the man, endeared himself to millions of Giants fans. He wore a stoic face, until it was time for a Buster hug. He stepped away in 2020 to raise newborn twins during a pandemic, then made it a full-time decision after last season. He will live on forever in the memories of those who crossed paths with him.
For Sabean, the architect of the Giants’ trio of World Series championships who drafted Posey, even more than most.
“It’s a feather in the organization’s cap that he retired as a Giant,” said Sabean, who along with Tim Lincecum were probably the two most notable absences from the festivities honoring Posey’s career on Saturday.
Returning to the shores of McCovey Cove, Posey gave fans the chance at a farewell that hadn’t, until now, been available after the announcement following the last season that sent shockwaves through the Bay Area. For all those reasons — the three World Series championships, the clutch hits, the no-hitter celebrations but also the human behind them — Saturday was an emotional day for all involved.
“I did pretty good,” Posey said afterward. “I didn’t cry.”
Sandwiching a speech between two standing ovations, with a dozen family members to his right and a who’s who of former teammates to his left, Posey recounted his experience from the Giants’ three World Series runs, thanking the fans for their support.
“It was very important for me to be able to say thank you to the fanbase,” Posey said. “Just grateful and humbled to have a day like this. I’ve loved the game my whole life, so just really grateful to have been honored in this way with teammates and coaches and fans and family and friends. It was very special.”
The final two pitches Posey will catch in Oracle Park came from his two eldest children, Lee and Addison, whom he now coaches on youth softball and baseball teams. Both children threw ceremonial first pitches, followed by former closer Brian Wilson ending the festivities with one, final Buster Hug.
“He’s as good of a person as you could ever be around in a clubhouse and in life,” said Giants pitcher Alex Wood, the former Dodger who faced Posey 27 times as an opponent, then joined forces for his final season. “To see him day in and day out do what he did last year, just as a baseball fan, was friggin’ awesome. … I feel really fortunate to have gotten to spend last year with him.”
“Just great values to his core,” said outfielder Austin Slater, who is now the longest-tenured Giant besides Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt. “Like a good friend, someone that you could have really serious conversations about life with (or ) dive deep into baseball.”
Among those on hand were the Molina brothers, Yadier in town with the Cardinals and older brother Bengie as Posey’s former teammate and the catcher he supplanted behind the plate. Bengie delivered the most memorable speech of the day, getting Posey to sign his jersey and provide a Buster Hug.
“What can I say about Buster? He got me a ring!” Bengie said to a round of applause and laughter.
Yadi, one of the few players who can credibly claim to be a peer of Posey’s, acknowledged him as he walked to the Cardinals bullpen during the ceremony and watched on from the outfield grass. Most of the remaining Cardinals gathered on the top step of the first-base dugout.
That Posey’s ceremony occurred in front of the team he helped defeat for National League pennants in 2012 and 2014, “makes it special for me,” he said.
The crowd responded with oohs and ahhs.
“I promise I wasn’t taking a shot,” Posey clarified.
The younger Molina brother was in his seventh season when Posey won rookie of the year in 2010. He’ll join Posey in retirement after this season. In between, they twice waged battles in the NLCS and six times shared an All-Star field together, including as recently as last season, when Posey was 34 and Molina four years his senior.
“I enjoyed every moment, every battle,” Molina said. “We’ve got mutual respect. When you see a player like that, you’re just trying to learn. That’s what I did with him and that’s what he did with me.”
In a sense, the Giants were celebrating the end of an era on Saturday.
The clear books to the Posey era are his Rookie of the Year-winning 2010 on his way to the first of three World Series titles and his retirement at the end of their magical 107-win campaign last season.
However, Posey ensured he would have an imprint on the next generation of Giants baseball. Manager Gabe Kapler’s first interaction with him came as part of a one-hour interview during his hiring process. Posey was the only player involved.
“I think it’s as important as any conversation I’ve had as a Giant,” Kapler said.
Crawford, who arrived in 2011, was witness to almost all of Posey’s career. Crawford’s breakout last season was as much a surprise as Posey’s. Posey decided to ride off into the sunset, while Crawford inked a new two-year deal. But Posey’s ceremony Saturday had Crawford thinking about his future.
“Something like this makes me think about what could happen in a couple years,” said Crawford, 35. “He deserves a day like this, with how important he’s been to the franchise for so long and not telling anybody beforehand and retiring during the offseason, he never really got to get recognized by the fans and by his peers.”
In a nice bit of symmetry, Posey’s day came 24 hours after the Giants celebrated Willie Mays’ 91st birthday.
Mays and Posey were generation-defining parts of franchise history, but they also both embodied the characteristics off the field that elevated them from legend to statesman.
Mays. McCovey. Marichal. Cepeda. Bonds. Posey.
“We are kind of star-centric. Within that, he’s amongst those names of stars,” Sabean said. “Good things happen to good people, but Buster’s a different breed … It’s justified he’s in the Hall of Fame.”
Staff writer Kerry Crowley contributed to this story.