Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, is nicknamed El Pueblo de los Nangotaos—Town of the Squatters—after the posture assumed by sugar cane cutters as they waited for the train in the small town located in the country’s north central region. It is also home to the Molina brothers— Major League Baseball’s first family of catchers.
Benjamin Molina Sr. is the patriarch of baseball’s most acclaimed catching family. Before becoming a tools technician in a Westinghouse factory, he was a slugging second baseman in the Doble-A Beisbol League—he is that circuits’ all-time hits leader—and was elected to the Puerto Rican Hall of Fame in 2002.
Each night after dinner, the father would take his sons across the street to Jesus Mambe Kuilan Park, where he would teach them the fundamentals of the game. Mr. Molina coached each of his son’s teams, teaching hundreds of Puerto Rican boys the game that meant so much to him. Little did he know how far baseball would take his mijos.
Benjamin Jose Molina was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, on this date in 1974. After graduating with honors from Maestro Ladi High School in Vega Alta, he attended Arizona Western College, where he played shortstop in 1991 and 1992. After being signed by the California Angels as an amateur free agent in 1993, he made his big league debut as a catcher in September 1998. Regarded as a good-gloved, light-hitting catcher with a strong arm, Benjie finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2000. Two seasons later, he won a World Series title and the first of two consecutive Gold Glove Awards as the best defensive catcher in the American League. One of the slowest baserunners of his day, Bengie was an excellent contact hitter, striking out just 331 times between 2000 and 2007. In 2000, he led the AL in fewest strikeouts between at-bats, averaging over 14 plate appearances between strikeouts. The oldest Molina Brother is the only player in major league history to hit a home run and not get credit for the run. While playing for the San Francisco Giants in 2008, he hit a ball off the right field wall at AT&T Park that the umpire called fair. Emmanuel Burriss immediately ran out to pinch run for Molina, taking over first base. After review, the umpires ruled the hit a home run but would not allow Molina to re-enter the game. Benjie Molina played for four major league teams during his 13 year career. In 2010, he played for both the Giants and Texas Rangers, who met in the World Series, to become only the sixth player in MLB history to play for the two World Series teams in the same season. Benjie Molina is a two-time recipient of the Willie Mac Award. Named in honor of Willie McCovey [Daily Dose, July 29], the award is given annually to the San Francisco Giants’ most inspirational player.
Jose Benjamin Molina was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, June 3, 1975. After graduating from Maestro Ladi High School, he was drafted in the 14th round by the Chicago Cubs in 1993. A catcher with the ability to frame pitches and handle pitching staffs, Jose made his debut with the Cubs in September 1999. Three years later, he won a World Series with the California Angels while serving as a backup catcher to his older brother, Benjie. The pair become the first siblings to catch for the same team since 1887, when Amos and Lave Cross donned the tools of ignorance for the Louisville Colonels. Jose hit .306 against left-handed pitching in 2005 and played in a career-high 78 games the following year. In 14 big league seasons, Jose Molina batted .233, hit 39 home runs, collected 223 RBI and won two World Series titles. During his final appearance at Yankee Stadium—The House That Ruth Built—in June 1948, Babe Ruth said, “I was glad to have hit the first home run in this park. God only knows who will be the last.” Sixty years later, Jose Molina hit the last home run in the original Yankee Stadium, a two-run shot off Chris Waters in the fourth inning on September 21, 2008. The middle Molina Brother currently serves as a catching coach in the Angels farm system.
Yadier Benjamin Molina was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, July 13, 1982. The youngest of the Molina brothers is also the most accomplished. Yadi began catching at five, and was always the first player taken in the youth baseball draft in Vega Alta. At 15, Benjamin Molina Sr. insisted his youngest son try out for the local Double-A team, and Yadi earned a spot with the Hatillo Tigers, playing with men twice his age. Yadier was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2000 MLB Draft and signed for $ 325,000. Originally considered a defensive catcher with a great arm and weak bat, Yadier caught the eye of Cardinals’ starting catcher Mike Matheny on the first day of spring training in 2001. Matheny, who is now the Cardinals’ manager, came home that day and told his wife, Kristin, “I saw the kid who is going to steal my job.” Three years later, Yadi made his major league debut. A great pitch handler, Yadi has one of the strongest and most accurate arms in baseball. He has played in seven consecutive All-Star Games, won eight Gold Gloves, and earned the Silver Slugger Award in 2013. Yadi has won two World Series titles and, in 2006, became the third catcher in history–behind Johnny Bench [Daily Dose, December 7] and Yogi Berra—to play in two World Series before age 25. He has great footwork, body control and hands. Molina is so fluid that he looks like he is not even working hard. In 12 big league seasons, he has appeared in the post season nine times. The Fielding Bible Award recognizes the best defensive player, by position, in MLB based on statistical analysis. Yadi Molina has won it six times. The baby of the family has collected over 1,400 hits, belted more than 100 home runs, and has driven in over 650 runs in his career. In April 2016, he caught his 1,440th game, surpassing Ted Simmons for most in St. Louis Cardinal history.
There have been 19 trios– including the DiMaggio, Cruz and Alou brothers–in major league history. The Molina brothers are the only ones that all own World Series rings.