A thought dawned on me yesterday. I was somberly folding laundry at four in the afternoon like a melancholy twenty-something from a mediocre sitcom.
Listening to sad music. Huffing. Folding slowly to make the menial task last longer so I had reason to avoid doing something more productive. You know the drill.
I had a thought that was embarrassingly simplistic. So embarrassingly simplistic that I didn’t want to share it with you, but I’d be legally obligated to hand in my “Writes For A Living” badge if I missed an opportunity to show both vulnerability and self-deprecation wrapped in one unassuming package vaguely resembling depression.
My thought was this: I realized that there was a certain point where “Buster Hugs” became a thing. When Posey stormed the mound after clinching the division in 2010 to attempt a WWE move on Brian Wilson, we didn’t yet have the concept of Buster Hugs. It wasn’t like his first hit, or home run, or perfectly framed strike, or thrown out runner, where we knew it would come, anxiously waited for it, and celebrated its arrival.
It just happened. And, I suspect, we thought nothing of it. A hug after winning a division is not exactly breaking news.
But somewhere along the way it became a thing, and Buster Posey, generally stoic face of the San Francisco Giants franchise, became known for his enthusiastic human embraces.
Maybe the term came after the second championship, or perhaps even the third. Maybe it came after one of the many no-hitters he caught.
Either way, at some point the term sprang to life, long after the first Buster Hug had been administered. There were Buster Hugs that occurred before Buster Hugs existed, and they’re some of the best Buster Hugs.
Now, in light of the franchise legend calling it a career, let’s look back at some of those beautiful hugs, in no particular order.
2010 World Series
It’s not the first Buster Hug, but it certainly feels like the original Buster Hug, even though it might not even classify as a hug. It’s a Buster Hug, to be sure, but it’s not really a hug. It’s more of a chest bump that gets interrupted by Posey and Wilson’s teammates who had the temerity to also want to celebrate a world title.
My favorite part of the OG Buster Hug is Posey, only in his rookie season, looking to the bullpen as he ran to the mound, with an expression on his face that seemed to be asking if this was really happening, and if he was allowed to celebrate.
I always think of Posey as the Giants (friendly) authority figure. He seems so confident, reassured, and smart; always aware of what’s going on. This was a 23-year old Posey in his first full season, and it’s one of the few glimpses of the innocence that accompanied him when he was “Buster Posey, Giants Catcher Prospect” and not “BUSTER POSEY, LEGENDARY LEGEND.”
2012 World Series
Unlike in 2010, Posey got off an actual hug to celebrate the 2012 title, this time with Sergio Romo. How Romo stayed on his feet through this is a mystery that will never be explained; I guess that team really was magical.
2014 World Series
This feels like the ultimate Buster Hug, the shining beacon of what a Buster Hug really is.
A team mobbing eventually ensued, but for a few glorious seconds it’s just Posey and Madison Bumgarner, embracing like a soldier seeing their family at the airport in a war movie.
While Posey is beloved among nearly all who donned a Giants jersey, Bumgarner was the one player who you felt was truly Posey’s good friend.
I can no longer find the article, but if memory serves me correctly, Bumgarner said after the game that Posey was his best friend, and that in the moments of their victorious embrace he told his future Hall of Fame teammate that he loved him.
You can see the specialness of not just their friendship, but of what they accomplished as battery mates ... it’s not a coincidence that their teammates gave them a few minutes before turning the celebration into a mosh pit. You can see just how hard they fought — overcoming a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series, and a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series, with Bumgarner pitching nearly 70 innings in Game 7 of the World Series on two days of rest — in the way that Posey melts into Bumgarner as if to say that neither has any gas left in the tank. You can almost hear him saying, “Let’s go home.”
Matt Cain’s perfect game
The World Series Buster Hugs are the ones that get the bulk of the credit, but there’s something so special about the times where the event is an individual accomplishment.
Matt Cain had one of the greatest individual accomplishments you can have in baseball, and Posey had a front seat — and a huge role — in it. As such, this Buster Hug feels less like one of satisfaction, and more of excitement for someone else — which feels very Poseyian.
I’ve also always linked Posey and Cain together. They both seem very similar: quiet country kids who just seemed to really love baseball, adapted to and became deeply embraced by San Francisco after coming from small towns in the south, were excellent at their craft and loved by their teammates. They felt like brothers, with Cain being the brother who played pranks at farted at the dinner table, and Posey being the one whose bed was always made and did everyone’s taxes.
2010 division clincher
It’s fun to watch this video and know that Posey would eventually come to be known for his stoicism. You’ll never see him jump this much. Never see him emote quite like this ... as he aged he showed his emotion in more mature ways, as though he had the perspective that one day he’d be 34, with four kids and a wife, and decide the time had come to no longer play baseball.
But here? Here’s he’s just a kid at the arcade who just won the jackpot and is watching an endless stream of tickets come flying out.
As far as Buster Hugs go, this one is exceptionally tame, but it’s also the only Buster Hug that took place in the rain. And I like that Posey seemed to just watch Romo dance for a while before the embrace.
Tim Lincecum’s first no-hitter
To my knowledge, Tim Lincecum’s first no-hitter in 2013 is the one and only time that a Buster Hug was a sneak attack. Timmy had his back to the mound, watching the outfield as the 27th out fluttered softly into Gregor Blanco’s mitt.
Lincecum was not yet celebrating. If memory serves me correctly, he later admitted that he was so locked in that he hadn’t yet realized that the game was over. You can see that on his face — the moment Posey bear hugs Timmy from behind, and hoists him high in the air, Lincecum breaks into a childish grin, the kid who found the house on Halloween that gave him the rest of their candy so they could turn the lights off and go to sleep.
Professional baseball gets unfairly reduced to a “child’s game” far too often, but these two reminded us that it can be that, in the best ways.
But not only is this a perfect Buster Hug, but it features a sensational second Buster Hug, when Lincecum, accepting congratulations from his teammates, pushes right through an attempted hug by soon-to-be-revealed-as-extremely-creepy Chad Gaudin to find and hug Posey again, while cameras catch him saying, “Hey Buster! Thank you man. Thank you.”
In a half decade that will be the best that many Giants fans experience, those few minutes, from final out to wholesome gratitude, always stand out to me.
I’ve always enjoyed the fact that Posey gets two-thirds of the way to the mound before realizing he still has his catcher’s mask on. He then manages to hug Wilson in a way that makes Posey look about two feet shorter, despite the fact that they’re the same height.
Buster Hugs: each one is unique.
Chris Heston’s no-hitter
Pure joy. Simply pure joy for an accomplishment that Posey knows his teammate will never forget.
2014 Wild Card
This is one of the more understated Buster Hugs, which is fitting, because little did we know it but Bumgarner and the Giants were just getting started on their epic run to a championship.
The postseason started with brilliance from Bumgarner, who threw a four-hit shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the win-or-go-home Wild Card Game. It was a special Buster Hug in that Posey made the final out, catching a foul pop-up, before heading for an embrace.
There’s a sense of pride, but mostly a sense that there’s more work to be done, and they’re excited to get there.
Tim Lincecum’s second no-hitter
Timmy’s second no-hitter gets omitted from most Buster Hug lists because it’s not really a Buster Hug in the traditional sense. Posey wasn’t catching the game, and didn’t rush the mound before the other teammates for the battery mate hug — Hector Sanchez got the honors.
But there’s something so beautiful about Posey’s celebration from first base, which started with raised fists after he recorded the final out. Lincecum’s second no-no came while nonsense rumors (rumors that, it should be noted, were never ever stated by reporters, players, or anyone other than unruly online fans) that Lincecum and Posey didn’t like each other.
It was, of course, nonsense, something that was as clear as day to anyone who watched Posey rush the mound from first, smack Lincecum’s shoulder a few times, and then cradle his teammates head with perhaps the biggest smile I’ve ever seen from Buster.
2021 Game No. 162
It’s fitting, but also heartbreaking, that the final Buster Hug — which came when the Giants won the NL West on the final day of the 2021 season — isn’t really caught on camera. The main broadcast angle cuts away from Dominic Leone before Posey got there, and it’s only on the alternate angle where you can see Posey rushing to greet his pitcher. But a split second before they embrace, the crowd of celebrating Giants engulfs the screen, and your mind is left to wander what happened out of sight.
It’s how Posey would have wanted it. He didn’t announce his retirement until his final game had been played. There would be no victory lap, or celebratory stadium tour. There would be no final at-bat with a lengthy ovation and a tip of the cap.
He wouldn’t pull back the curtain quite that far, and the camera people — justifiably focused on the team celebration, and not the superstar no one knew had just played his final regular season game — wouldn’t, either.
Have I mentioned how much I hate poetry?