Sunday, August 21, 2011

No. 51 retired

Trevor Hoffman said his Padres retirement ceremony today was full of surprises, none bigger than the video clip of his late father, Ed Hoffman, singing the national anthem at Fenway Park in 1981.

Trevor stood behind pitcher's mound at Petco Park. With him were his wife, his three sons, his two brothers and his mother.

Shown on the scoreboard was Ed Hoffman, who died in 1995. Also in the clip was one of Trevor's brother's, Glenn Hoffman, then a Red Sox shortstop.

"I couldn't see," Trevor said of the tears.

Ed Hoffman, a former Marine, worked at Anaheim Stadium, where he sometimes sang the anthem. He was known as the singing usher.

Trevor credits his father's baseball tutelage for his longevity as a pitcher.

At today's ceremony, the first surprise for the all-time save leader came when his wife and three sons awaited in the home bullpen and walked with him to the mound as Hell Bells played, allowing them to experience Trevor Time. "To be able to share that moment that I got to enjoy..." Hoffman said, again welling up.

Nor did Hoffman expect the Padres to give him a Cadillac convertible, 1958 vintage, with SD 51 on the license plate. As Hoffman got behind the wheel, AC/DC's "Back in Black" was on the stadium PA.

Also causing him to gulp were the hugs from the wives of three deceased former teammates -- Ken Caminiti, Rod Beck and Mike Darr.

"It was just waves and roller coasters of emotion," Hoffman said. "It just kept crescendo-ing."

Hoffman said several times that "one person doesn't deserve all of this."

Well-wishers, among them several baseball Hall of Famers, walked down a red carpet to hug Hoffman, who stood on pitcher's mound. Among them was Rickey Henderson, wearing a blue plaid suit and still looking fit.

"Trevor was a special ballplayer," said Henderson, a teammate on two Padres teams. "He was the type of player that you looked up to, you wanted to be around him."

Dave Stewart, the former A's ace and the Padres' pitching coach in 1998, when the team won 98 games and won the National League pennant, said Hoffman's consistency set him apart.

"The most impressive thing about Trevor was you knew what you were going to get from him day in and day out -- at the ballpark and as a person," Stewart said. "No offense to Dave Winfield and Randy Jones, but in my opinion Tony Gwynn is on top of the baseball personalities to come through this city, and Trevor is right behind him."

After a 10-second countdown, Hoffman's No. 51 was revealed on top of the batters' eye alongside the 19 of Tony Gwynn, the 6 of Steve Garvey, the 31 of Dave Winfield, the 35 of Randy Jones and the 42 of Jackie Robinson. Wearing Padres brown, all four of those former Padres were present. 

When Hoffman thanked the fans, the roar lasted about 10 seconds. 
Hoffman called the relationship with Padres fans one of mutual respect.

"A baseball fan is one that appreciates the length of the season and appreciates the perseverance that it takes to get through 162 games," he said. "I was lucky to be a baseball player."

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