Name an offensive or defensive award in baseball and it’s likely you can find at least one in Buster Posey’s trophy case.
MVP? Check—won it in 2012, one of two catchers to win the award in the last two decades. He also won the batting title that season, hitting .336.
Rookie of the Year? Yep, he has that one too, winning the award in 2010 en route to helping the San Francisco Giants win their first World Series since moving west in 1958.
Gold Glove? You bet. Silver Slugger? How about five of them.
Comeback Player of the Year? Twice, putting him in elite company as a two-time recipient (Frank Thomas in 2000 and 2006).
Well, what about the big one. World Series rings? Three of them, three more than San Francisco had before Posey arrived in 2010. Even throw in a Hank Aaron Award for good measure in 2012.
So let’s recap—MVP, Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, Comeback Player of the Year–that’s practically every regular season award a position player could win. The only one missing makes one question why the award doesn’t reside in his trophy case.
Although he was nominated on multiple occasions, the Roberto Clemente Award is the one seasonal award that eluded Posey, since he’s not exactly eligible for the Cy Young or Manager of the Year. It is awarded annually to the player “who best represents the game of Baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”
Posey’s positive contributions on and off the field forms a long list as well, but few athletes can surpass his work with pediatric cancer. In 2016, Posey and his wife Kristen started BP28, making pediatric cancer the “focus of their philanthropic efforts.” After learning that only about 4% of cancer funds raised in the United States go directly to pediatric research, Buster and Kristen used their platform to “help change the experience and outcomes for children with cancer.” To date, the foundation has raised more than $5.5 million dollars towards pediatric cancer research.
Posey’s awards are numerous, but his contributions to pediatric cancer awareness cannot be measured.
With his playing career now behind him, here’s a look back at ten Posey cards and collectables that symbolize who he was on and off the field.
2020 Stadium Club Chrome #185
While Clemente gave his life flying to help earthquake victims, Posey’s contribution to pediatric cancer research cannot be understated. Both used their platform and visibility to make the world a better place for a population that needed a helping hand. In 2020, Stadium Club released a card featuring Posey wearing a chest protector that was signed by children who were fighting cancer, the same chest protector he wore during MLB Players’ Weekend in 2019.
It’s certainly not one of his most expensive cards, but it is one every Posey collector should own because it represents who Posey was on and off the field. You can check them out here.
2008 Donruss Elite “School Colors” RC
Posey’s career has also been a lesson in the virtue of patience in the sports card market, having several season’s cut short by injury, and another lost completely when he opted out to spend more time with his recently adopted twins during the pandemic.
At times, collecting Posey seemed more volatile than crypto stock. Coming out of Florida State, Posey had won the ACC’s triple crown, hitting .463 with 26 home runs and 93 RBI to lead the conference in each category. The Golden Spikes Award winner was expected to go high in the draft and carry a hefty price tag considering his offensive potential at a position that rarely sees notable production with the bat. Naturally, with these accolades, Posey was one of the big names in the 2008 MLB Draft, which translated to the card market.
There are a number of Donruss Elite cards from 2008 and 2009 that feature Posey playing for Florida State that won’t break the bank and predate his rookie season in the big leagues. 2008 Donruss Elite featured a “School Colors” Rookie Card that was numbered to 1,500–which is even more rare than his 2010 Topps Gold. The former is a lot more affordable than the latter.
2008 Bowman Chrome Auto
When he arrived to the Giants organization, the legend continued to grow. Posey dominated the Arizona Rookie League, hitting .351 with an OPS of 1.089 before being promoted to Low-A Salem-Keizer towards the end of 2008. In 2009, the Giants challenged Posey with a bump to High-A San Jose, a test he passed with flying colors—hitting .325 with 18 home runs and 80 RBI in only 291 at-bats in the California League.
While #28 has become synonymous with Posey’s MLB career, he initially wore #7 as a San Jose Giant. Any signed items of Posey’s bearing the #7 indicates an early signature from his years in the low minors. It’s also the same number he wore as a member of the 2004 USA Baseball 18U National Team, even though he wore #8 while at Florida State.
It wasn’t until Posey arrived in Triple-A Fresno that he began wearing #28. He skipped Double-A completely, and it only took another 131 at-bats in Fresno for the Giants to be convinced his was ready for the big leagues. In that span, Posey hit .321 with an OPS of .902, signaling he was ready for the next step.
Posey’s true 1st Bowman card was his 2008 Bowman Chrome Prospects Autograph, as he never had a traditional non-auto bowman 1st year RC. They aren’t cheap, but it’s one of the most iconic rookie cards you can own featuring Posey. A regular chrome auto will run you a few hundred dollars at least, with numbered refractors often selling in the thousands. A BGS 9.5 Blue Refractor Auto has sold for between $1,600 and $2,000, to give some perspective on price.
2010 Topps Rookie Card
Posey was on a fast track to the major leagues as soon as they selected him #5 overall, but San Francisco was in no rush with Bengie Molina as the backstop. That is, until Molina suffered an injury late in the 2009 season, giving Giants fans a glimpse of the future. It effectively ended Molina’s tenure with San Francisco, opening the door for Posey to take the reigns behind the plate, a role he would maintain for more than a decade.
While Posey struggled in a brief stint in 2009, it was just an appetizer for the young catcher to get accustomed to the big league level. With only 17 at-bats in 2009, Posey’s rookie eligibility carried into 2010, which proved to be his first breakout season.
In 406 at-bats in 2010, Posey hit .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBI, posting a .862 OPS on his way to becoming the Rookie of the Year in the National League.
Posey’s 2010 Topps Rookie Card (#2 in the base set) is still an affordable ungraded option that you can find ungraded in the $10-$20 range. High grade versions can fetch more than $200.
2013 Gypsy Queen “Collisions at the Plate”
After his 2010 Rookie of the Year campaign, there was a buzz in San Francisco surrounding the young catcher who was drawing early comparison to the likes of Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza and Yogi Berra.
Fresh off of a Rookie of the Year Award and the Giants first World Series title in San Francisco, the sky seemed to be the limit for the budding backstop.
That resounding buzz went deafening silent on May 25th, 2011, a date that not only changed the trajectory of Posey’s career, but changed a rule that was woven into baseball lore. With the score tied 6-6 in the top of the 12th inning, the Marlins had runners at the corners with one out. At third, Scott Cousins, a young outfielder drafted out of nearby University of San Francisco, represented the go-ahead run.
The strange sequence of events that led up to Cousins tagging and trying to score was seemingly scripted by some twisted author of fate. Cousins had pinch-hit for pitcher Ryan Webb after a single by John Buck. With the go-ahead run at first, the Marlins elected to put on a sacrifice bunt for Cousins to move Buck into scoring position. Had Cousins executed a sacrifice bunt, Posey’s ankle may still be free of any metallic screws, and baserunners may still be allowed to run over catchers at home plate.
But Cousins bunted it back to pitcher Guillermo Mota, who spun and threw out the lead runner (Buck) at second. With Cousins stuck at first, Omar Infante laced a single to right field, allowing Cousins to advance all the way to third. Interestingly enough, had Cousins executed the sacrifice bunt, it’s possible the run would have scored on Infante’s single and we would have never seen what happened next.
Yet, since there was one out, the Marlins third base coach had to take a chance when Emilio Bonafacio hit a shallow fly ball to right-center field. With no outs, it likely wasn’t deep enough to send Cousins. With the ball descending in shallow right-center, Giants right-fielder Nate Shierholtz positioned himself to throw out Cousins. Shierholtz, who had a reputation for having one of the best arms in the league, unleashed a perfect one-hop throw to home plate that had Cousins beat by a step.
Posey fielded the throw and turned to tag where he expected Cousins to be sliding. But Cousins didn’t slide—he took a B line for Posey’s midsection and threw every pound of his body towards the catcher in an attempt to dislodge the ball and give the Marlins the lead in extra innings.
If you ask the old school, Cousins succeeded. As Posey lay writhing in pain, the ball escaped his glove and Cousins was ruled safe. The Marlins took the lead as trainers from the Giants dugout came rushing out to attend to their young catcher.
Yet as satisfying as a win was, nobody—even Cousins—was pleased that the cost was the health of Posey. Less than three years later, MLB Rule 7.13, also known as the “Buster Posey Rule,” was introduced to help protect a defenseless catcher.
In 2013, Gypsy Queen featured an insert run called “Collisions at the Plate.” Being somewhat of a poster boy, Posey was a natural add to the set. It’s a very inexpensive card but it commemorates a very significant moment in Posey’s career and the history of Major League Baseball. It’s also safe to say, there won’t be a sequel set coming anytime soon.
2012 Triple Threads “Backstop Leaders”
If you listened to some within the game, Posey was destined to have a similar path as former A’s All-Star catcher Ray Fosse after the injury. Fosse, an All-Star in 1970 who hit .307 with 18 home runs on the season, was involved in a collision with Pete Rose on the last play of the All-Star game that year. After X-rays revealed no fractures or structural damage, Fosse returned to finish the rest of the 1970 season.
The following year, Fosse was still feeling pain in the area and had a re-examination. There it was discovered that Fosse had in fact sustained a fractured and separated shoulder, which had healed incorrectly. The constant pain plagued Fosse, who never hit more than 12 home runs in a year after his brilliant 1970 season.
In Posey’s case, the collision with Cousins resulted in a fractured fibula and torn ligaments in his ankle. It cost him the remainder of the 2011 season, prompting whispers and speculation surrounding whether he would be the same player when he returned—if he returned at all.
Posey did return in 2012, quickly quieting critics with his best season to date. With two new screws in his lower leg and a surgically repaired ankle, the Giants backstop hit .336 with 24 home runs and 96 RBI on his way to winning the MVP of the National League. Some argued a move to first base would prolong his career, but the true value of Posey resided in his prowess behind the plate, where he could affect a game with his pitch calling, framing, blocking and throwing. The effect was felt around the league, as San Francisco captured its second World Series title in 2012.
The same year, Topps Triple Threads released a relic combo card featuring three of the game’s best catchers called “Backstop Leaders.” It features Posey, Joe Mauer and Mike Napoli in his prime. There aren’t many floating around, as Triple Threads limited these to serial numbered runs of #/36, #/27 (Sepia), #/18 (Emerald), #/9 (Gold), #/3 (Sapphire) and #1/1 (Ruby). While the more common versions will run you $30-$50 on average, the #1/1 Ruby is still available online.
2014 Sports Illustrated For Kids “Leesburg Major Diamondbacks”
When San Francisco won its third World Series in five years in 2014, Posey was once again a focal point of the franchise’s success. In 547 regular season at-bats, Posey hit .311 with 22 home runs and 89 RBI, which translated to a .854 OPS.
While Posey’s three rings as a catcher and closet full of awards have been hallmarks of his success, he wasn’t always seen as a backstop. At Florida State, Posey began his career as a shortstop and closer, earning All-America honors as a freshman in 2006. In 2007, Florida State even started to use Posey on the mound as a two-way threat.
The next year, as a junior, Posey played every position on the diamond in a game against Savannah State. He started the game behind the plate, then moved in numerical order around the field. From catcher (2), to first base (3), to second base (4) and so on. Posey finished the feat by striking out the only two batters he faced, then moving to right field for the last out of the game. He added a grand slam at the plate as well for good measure.
Posey was even more prevalent on the mound as a teenager, going 12-0 with a 1.06 ERA as a senior at Lee County High School in Georgia. Posey also graduated fourth in his class of more than 300 students, posting a 3.938 GPA to accompany his athletic achievements.
Years before his prowess at Lee County or Florida State, Posey was in fact a one time a Diamondback. Albeit for the Leesburg Diamondbacks of the “Majors” division. In 2014, Sports Illustrated for Kids issued a Posey card in their magazine that shows a Little League field somewhere in Georgia with Buster on the bump. They won’t cost you much, but for anyone who’s seen what the Tiger Woods version sells for might consider stashing a couple. The edges of these are serrated and often torn because they have to be removed from a sheet of cards that appear in the magazine itself. A baseball mom or dad somewhere has a serious collector’s item if they kept their Little League scorebooks from the Leesburg D-backs days.
2017 Buster Posey Pediatric Cancer Awareness Glove Statue
It’s an old saying and even older song, but “Dem Bones” reminds us that when it comes to our bone structure, everything is connected—ankle bone connected to the leg bone, leg bone connected to the knee bone, knee bone connected to the thigh bone, thigh bone connected to the hip bone…and so on. Long-time catchers tend to know this song well.
After a notable statistical decline in 2018, there were rumblings that Posey may be playing hurt, a notion that was confirmed when he elected to undergo hip surgery in August of that season to address an impingement and torn labrum. Posey still managed to hit .284 that year, but his power evaporated and his constant grimaces were a constant reminder of what he was enduring.
Was the ankle connected to the hip in this case? Or was it just the normal wear and tear of squatting, blocking and deflecting 100 mph bullets that are called foul tips every day? Either way, Posey was noticeably hampered by the injury and hit just five home runs on the season before being shut down.
Whispers were starting to transform into a chorus of popular opinion that Posey’s best days were behind him. While Posey’s numbers declined, his involvement in his Pediatric Cancer foundation and role as a father figure to his two children only grew stronger. For those who want to commemorate his off the field accomplishments, a Pediatric Cancer Awareness glove like the ones given away to fans at Oracle park is one way to show your support, as well as donating to Posey’s charity.
2020 Topps Photo Variation SP
With two children already keeping them busy, Buster and Kristen Posey adopted two twin baby girls in early July of 2020, just weeks before the shortened MLB season was scheduled to start. While the twins were expected in August or September, they arrived eight weeks prematurely and had to spend time in neonatal intensive care.
With the abbreviated season set to start on July 23rd, Posey made the announcement on July 10 that he would be opting out of the 2020 season.
“From a baseball standpoint, it was a tough decision,” Posey said. “From a family standpoint and feeling like I’m making a decision to protect our children, I think it was relatively easy.”
In an eerie preview of events, Topps released Series 1 on February 3, which includes a photo variation of Posey waving goodbye, several months before the announcement was made. For variation fans, you can own one for less than $10.
2020 Topps Series 1 “Home Field Advantage”
Without Posey to start the season for the first time since 2010, the Giants made a postseason push in 2020 that came up just short. At 29-31, they narrowly missed out on returning to the postseason, as the Milwaukee Brewers snuck in with the same record.
If you take the WAR (wins over replacement) argument, Posey likely would have been the difference. At his peak, Posey had a 10.1 WAR in 2012, but generally was a 4-7 win player every year over the course of his career.
When he returned in 2021, it was clear what San Francisco had been missing. Aside from his production, Posey brought a certain calm to a pitching staff that can’t be understated. In a data-driven world, intangibles often get lost in the shuffle, but Posey’s presence was palpable beyond simply accounting for things like hits, home runs and RBI.
There were other additions in 2021 for the Giants, but none more noticeable than Posey. San Francisco won 107 games, more than they had ever won in a single season in New York or San Francisco. Posey returned to his MVP form, hitting .304 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI in 395 at-bats. It was as if the year off had rejuvenated Posey, although Posey himself credited his reimagined physique and arm strength to the practice of throwing diapers at his son (Lee Dempsey Posey).
Then, in what was the best kept secret of the year, Posey abruptly announced his retirement after the season. No swan song, farewell tour, or even a hint of his intentions. Despite media surrounding him everyday, there were no leaks in that ship, as Posey didn’t want any retirement attention to detract from the job at hand. While odd for some, it perfectly symbolized the humility that Posey exemplified on a daily basis—always one to deflect praise to another member on the team.
With his family, franchise and foundation thriving, Posey could walk away from the game in one piece—which may have been the only peace he needed.
In 2022, Topps released a new insert called “Home Field Advantage” that bears a resemblance to the “Downtown” design made famous by Panini. Posey’s card features some of the staples of San Francisco, depicting the Golden Gate Bridge, a trolley, the Transamerica Pyramid building, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the seagulls that can often be seen on trash pickup duty during the late innings at Oracle Park. The price has jumped around due to an unstated print run, but a well placed bid could land you one for around $40-$50.
About Lyell Marks
A former college baseball beat writer, Lyell has written for a variety of print and online publications. He was one of the first wave of contributing writers for Bleacher Report. In his free time, Lyell loves talking baseball, playing golf, and adding to his Buster Posey collection. He can be reached at [email protected].