SAN DIEGO — Well, Hells Bells, look who made it into the Hall of Fame.
Trevor Hoffman, known for his high leg kick, menacing glare and wicked changeup, was voted into the Hall of Fame on Wednesday in his third year on the ballot.
Hoffman was baseball’s all-time saves leader with 601 when he retired in 2010, and later was passed by Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees.
His relatively short stay on the ballot wasn’t without some controversy. Some voters and fans disregard saves as a major stat, and point to Hoffman’s relative lack of success in the playoffs.
But Hoffman took the high road.
“This was my job title, this is what I was asked to do and I did it pretty well,” he said at an outdoor news conference at Petco Park.
Hoffman, converted from shortstop to pitcher in the low minors with the Cincinnati organization, received 79.9 percent of the vote after missing by just five votes last time.
“There’s really not much else you can do after you’re done playing,” Hoffman said. “You can chose to kind of battle a fight that’s not worth fighting. I was comfortable with the career I had, comfortable with the way I went about it and if enough people felt the same about it as I did, we’d be standing here today. And fortunately we were.”
Hoffman was with Alan Trammell earlier in December when the former star shortstop was voted into the Hall of Fame by the modern day committee after failing to get in on balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of San Diego.
“He showed such grace and humility through the process, so 800 days doesn’t seem that big a deal, does it, guys?” Hoffman said. “I’m certainly proud, certainly thankful.”
Hoffman was accompanied by his wife, Tracy; mother, Nikki; brother Glenn, a former big shortstop who’s entering his 13th season as Padres third base coach; and two of his three sons. Son Quinn, a sophomore infielder at Harvard, had already returned to school. Wyatt Hoffman is a freshman infielder at Pacific.
His father, Eddie, a former Marine and former professional singer who was known as the Singing Usher at Anaheim Stadium, died in 1995.
Hoffman earned his first two career saves with the Marlins as a rookie in 1993 and his final 47 saves with Milwaukee in 2009-10.
In between, he had 552 saves with the Padres, helping them win four NL West titles and reach just their second World Series.
Tracy Hoffman wore a black AC/DC “Hells Bells” T-shirt, a nod to the ominous song that began to play when Trevor jogged in from the bullpen. “Trevor Time” became an event in San Diego, when a save opportunity was on the line and batters knew they’d be facing Hoffman’s flummoxing changeup, which dropped toward the dirt and more often than not eluded their bats.
“It was one of those moments in the game that never, never got old, trust me,” said Bruce Bochy, who managed Hoffman in San Diego from 1995-2006 before becoming the San Francisco Giants’ manager. “It’s always good to bring your closer in, but the ‘Hells Bells’ became part of it, just to see how it brought the crowd to life, the team. It energized the whole ballpark. It was electric.”
Hoffman earned his 479th save in the Padres’ final home game of 2006 to break Lee Smith’s career record. He became the first to record 500 saves, on June 6, 2007. After being allowed to leave as a free agent, he finished his career with the Brewers and became the first to 600 saves on Sept. 7, 2010.
Hoffman came to the Padres during their infamous fire sale of 1993, when the team dealt off all its stars except Tony Gwynn, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007. Hoffman and two minor leaguers were acquired for slugger Gary Sheffield, who won the NL batting crown in 1992, and reliever Rich Rodriguez.
Then-general manager Randy Smith was roundly panned for saying at the time that he had to move quality players to bring in quality players. Hoffman was booed in his first several appearances with the Padres before eventually becoming one of the franchise’s most-beloved players.
“We hoped to get guy to pitch late in games and he certainly met those expectations and a lot more,” Smith said Wednesday. “Words can’t express it. He’s a deserving Hall of Famer in every sense: the work ethic, the personality, of course the performance. I thought he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but now that he’s in it doesn’t really matter. He’s in.”
Hoffman’s election was a boost to a city that badly needed one. The Padres are in a deep rebuilding mode and the NFL’s Chargers relocated to the Los Angeles area last season. Additionally, several stars have died in recent years, including Gwynn and former broadcaster and player Jerry Coleman in 2014, and Junior Seau in 2012. Dick Enberg, the TV voice of the Padres for seven seasons, died in December.
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