I was certainly glad to see the San Diego Padres retire Trevor Hoffman’s number on Sunday.

Hoffman not only finished his career as the all-time saves leader in major-league history but he was a class act during his 15-plus years with the Padres.

Hoffman is the fifth player who played for the Padres to have his number (51) retired. The other retired numbers are 6 (Steve Garvey), 19 (Tony Gwynn), 31 (Dave Winfield) and 35 (Randy Jones).

Gwynn is the only player in franchise history who can rightfully claim to be more popular than Hoffman.

One assignment I’ve never forgotten during my award-winning journalism career was the day my boss told me to head to then-Jack Murphy Stadium and get fan reaction when the Padres traded reigning batting champion Gary Sheffield to the Florida Marlins on June 24, 1993.

It was part of a franchise-stripping fire sale ordered by the disastrous ownership group headed by Tom Werner. Fans at “The Murph” were irate and I didn’t encounter one single person who even minutely approved of the Sheffield deal.

Inflaming the disapproval was that then-general manager Randy Smith insisted the trade was one of “value for value.” That boast earned Smith the nickname of “Pinocchio.”

One of the three nobodies the Padres received in that trade was Trevor Hoffman.

That afternoon’s game was one of the most surreal sporting events I’ve ever attended. It was a brutally ugly scene and the frustration only grew the next month when reigning home-run champ Fred McGriff was traded to the Atlanta Braves.

The emotions eventually died down as Hoffman emerged as an All-Star closer and Sheffield went on to be a high-priced bundle of trouble for many other teams.

Hoffman became one of the more-popular players in franchise history and his ninth-inning entrance to the tune of AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” became known as “Trevor Time.” The entrance became the most-anticipated event of any game in which the Padres entered the late innings with a lead.

His high leg kick and devastating change-up set him apart, as did an insatiable work ethic. But most of all, Hoffman just kept saving games while being a classy representative of the franchise.

Hoffman was a seven-time All-Star with nine seasons of 40 or more saves. His top season was 1998 when he had a 1.48 earned-run average and was 53-for-54 in save opportunities while helping the Padres reach the World Series for one of just two times in the franchise’s woeful history.

Hoffman should have a Cy Young Award on his mantle but was shafted by some clueless baseball writers who felt relievers shouldn’t be considered for the award. He finished second to Atlanta’s Tom Glavine in the 1998 balloting despite having more first-place votes (13 to 11) than Glavine.

He was left off a staggering six ballots and lost a close vote to Glavine.

Hoffman finished his career with 601 saves and spent his final two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. The original parting of the ways between Hoffman and the Padres was acrimonious but Hoffman rejoined the organization in a front-office role prior to the current season.

The city of San Diego doesn’t have any major-league professional team titles to boast about – sorry, I’m not going to count the San Diego Sockers’ indoor titles – and the list of memorable players would include more Chargers than Padres.

But there’s no disputing that Trevor Hoffman is one of the most memorable sports figures – both as a player and person – in San Diego sports history.

And to think he was booed mercilessly the first time he took the mound as a member of the Padres. Good thing Smith requested Hoffman as one of the players for Sheffield.

Funny how things work out sometimes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s