Forty-two players donned Giants uniforms in 2010. None had a crazier story than Bengie Molina, who watched from the Rangers’ dugout in Texas when the Giants clinched their first San Francisco championship, knowing he would be receiving a cherished World Series ring.
Molina was on the winning side when the Angels stunned the Giants to win the 2002 Series. He spent the 2007-09 seasons catching for San Francisco and earning credit for helping young pitchers such as Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo become playoff-caliber performers.
But Molina’s days were numbered as soon as the Giants selected Buster Posey with the fifth pick in the 2008 draft. In 2010, Posey was ready to take the job, and the Giants sent Molina, a two-time Willie Mac Award winner, to Texas, a move that still saddens the oldest of three big-league catching brothers. Jose played until 2014. Yadier continues his likely Hall of Fame career with the Cardinals.
Bengie still feels neglected by the Giants. He discussed that and much more last week from his home in Arizona, where the father of three and grandfather of a 5-year-old girl resides when he is not broadcasting St. Louis Cardinals games in Spanish.
Questions and answers were edited for clarity and brevity:
Ten years later, how do you reflect on the trade to Texas that sent you away from a team that won the World Series?
I think it was a very sad situation. I always bring this up in my head. It was really tough for me and my family to accept that I was traded. It really sucked for us. We loved the city of San Francisco. We loved everybody out there. The fans were really great — until the last year. It’s funny that one week before they traded me, one of their guys (a Giants employee) asked me if I was OK being a backup to Buster Posey. I told them I had no problem with that. I understood the position of my career. Then all of a sudden, I was traded to Texas.
The fans were not good to you in 2010?
The last year was really rough on me. The first month, I was on a tear. Then I got hit with a foul ball on my catching elbow. I don’t know if I had a chip, but the pain didn’t go away. Maybe something was broken there. It started affecting my swing. (Manager Bruce) Bochy sat me down and said, “I need you to catch these kids.” If he didn’t mind I can’t swing the bat that well, I’m OK with it. I sacrificed my hitting and people started chanting really mean stuff to me. It was rough. I understand. They wanted production. But they forgot what I had done for this team.
You caught 59 of the 66 games Tim Lincecum pitched in 2008 and 2009, his Cy Young years. You helped bring guys like Lincecum and Matt Cain to the brink of the playoffs and did not get to enjoy the result. Was that tough?
The couple of months I had in Texas were unbelievable. They were really good and they embraced me with open arms. We had so much fun together with the Rangers, which took that little pain away. It took the pain away from me being hurt so much by the Giants trading me.
How did you feel the moment you learned you’d be facing the Giants in the World Series?
On the 10th anniversary of the 2010 World Series championship season, the first in San Francisco, The Chronicle is reminiscing with 10 key players from that team.
My emotions were crazy. I started thinking, wow, this can’t be happening. But at the same time, when I was saying goodbye to guys on the bus, I told Buster, “You take care of these guys. It’s a special group. I know you’re a leader now.” And I said, “You never know. I might see you in the World Series.”
You got a Giants World Series ring. Do you ever wear it, given that you were on the losing side?
I only wear it on special occasions. I don’t want to lose it. It’s very special to me. One of the things that really hurts me from the Giants is, everybody I think that had played there is invited to come back. I have only been there one time for the Willie Mac Award. They have never invited me to throw a first pitch. I don’t know how to say it, but I never felt appreciated. I felt appreciated from the players and the coaching staff. They were awesome. The manager was awesome to me, too.
It just feels kind of weird that everyone else has gone out there to throw a first pitch. Obviously, I didn’t win anything with them, but I thought I helped a lot of people. That hurts right now thinking back.
Speaking of the Willie Mac, you were one of only three to win it twice. Mike Krukow and J.T. Snow were the others.
I think that’s amazing. I think it’s an honor for everybody who has won it because of what Willie McCovey and Willie Mays have meant to the team. I have so much respect for them. I really took it to heart. I wanted to be the best teammate out there for my teammates and for my coaches. I really appreciated all the guys who voted for me.
You were one of the slowest runners in baseball, yet shortly after the trade, you hit for the cycle in Boston, finishing with a triple, then coming out with a leg injury. Was the cycle worth the injury?
It was weird. When I was in Texas, I was wearing my Giants catching gear. My legs were measured for the gear. When I got to Texas, I was given normal gear, which is for people who are tall. I’m not. All of a sudden, my leg started hurting. When I came out of the game, it wasn’t a 15-day thing. Just a little pinch. Plus, we needed that run.
What was amazing to me was to get to third base and see my teammates all laughing and enjoying the moment. I’ll never forget their faces. Whenever I go visit the Rangers, we still talk about it. They still joke around with me. I always tell people, I was the slowest guy and a “mediocre player,” but I have one more cycle than Willie Mays, the greatest player. That’s my line.
Why did you retire after the 2010 season?
Nobody wanted to give me a job in the big leagues. Everybody wanted the minor-league deals. I just came from a World Series and I did well. I played almost all year with that chip on my elbow. I couldn’t hit and I still would go out and do my job. There were a lot of teams that had catchers way below me as a player. For me to see that, that nobody wanted to sign me as a major-leaguer, I thought that was a sign. I was done.
You became a coach and now a Spanish-language broadcaster for the Cardinals, so you get to call games in which your brother Yadier plays. Had you considered broadcasting as a retirement job?
I never thought about it when I was playing. I never thought what was coming ahead. Then later in my career when I started coaching, I saw people announcing and I thought that would be interesting to do. It never went to my head to be doing this. This was an offer that came up five years ago, to do Spanish radio. Imagine doing Spanish radio for your brother’s team, and for all the Latin players and fans. It’s cool. I’ve embraced this as much as anything in my life. I think Spanish radio should be growing on every team for fans all over the world.
Your father, also called Bengie, died in 2008. You and Joan Ryan wrote a book about the man who helped raise three sons into major-leaguers. What did you get writing about him?
The biggest takeaway is that people come to me and say how great my father was. How awesome he was. How humble he was. He took care of the family. He sacrificed for the family. My brothers play in major-league baseball stadiums. People know us, but they didn’t know who my father was. Now they know. I put his name out there. For me, my dad should be in the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, we’ll get this book into a movie.