After missing by less than eight percentage points in his first year of eligibility and falling just five votes shy last year, the man with 601 saves, second-most ever, got the call.
Hoffman will be just the sixth Hall of Famer to have worked primarily as a reliever during his career. He joins Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Rich Gossage, Bruce Sutter and Hoyt Wilhelm.
There has been a lot of ink spilled on the topic of Hoffman’s candidacy. We’re lucky (or not lucky) space on the Internet is limitless, or all the bytes dissecting Hoffman’s WAR and WPA and JAWS might’ve shut down the government. (And how preposterous would that be?)
We can thankfully now stop talking about whether Hoffman belongs alongside the others.
Or will be. On the final Sunday in July in bucolic upstate New York, Hoffman will be enshrined as part of a sizable and distinguished class. His plaque will be in the Cooperstown museum with a mere 322 others. Cy Young and all the rest will welcome Hoffy to bronze-cast immortality.
“To think you’re going to share a room with the likes of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb,” Hoffman said at a Petco Park news conference. “… It’s a very humbling experience to think of yourself going into that realm.”
Humbled even more now that he has one more reason to not be, Hoffman said being considered among the top one percent of all players to ever play in the majors is “certainly something I don’t think I deserve.”
The wait wasn’t really that long.
Looking to his right at his wife, mother and two of his three sons seated next to him Wednesday, Hoffman smiled and said, “800 days doesn’t seem like that big a deal.”
It sure felt like an injustice to those of us so indebted and and in awe for what he did.
Hoffman deserved it.
San Diego needed it.
We don’t have a lot of high-profile sports accomplishments (or even high-profile sports) to celebrate around here.
“To have something personally be able to give joy to the city, knowing I’ve been backed by so many, so well for so long, there is a lot of pride there,” Hoffman said. “… I think people are going to be able to stick their chest out a little bit and say, ‘He’s one of ours, and we’re proud of him.’ ”
Hoffman joins natives Ted Williams and Alan Trammell and adopted son Tony Gwynn as enshrinees. (A special shoutout to Dave Winfield, who went into the Hall as a Padre.)
Trevor William Hoffman was born in Bellflower.
But, oh, Hoffy is a San Diego kind of Hall of Famer as sure as he is a San Diegan.
And not just for the chiseled 6-foot, 215-pound frame and sandy wave of hair. And not just because he, essentially, was forced to develop that wipeout change-up after injuring his shoulder playing volleyball on the beach in Del Mar in 1994.
He made millions of dollars and earned the second-most saves ever against the odds.
You look at him now — even at 50 years old — and forget that a kid who failed as a minor-league shortstop is the man we’re talking about whose nine 40-save seasons are tied with Mariano Rivera as most ever.
Yeah, Hoffman was drafted as a shortstop, became a pitcher out of necessity and couldn’t throw his too-straight fastball hard enough for long enough once that happened.
So he learned a change-up that belied the role he filled. He wasn’t a flamethrower. He was an extinguisher.
He was a badass who brought a B.B. gun to a bazooka fight. His signature pitch might have officially been called a change-up, but it was really a conundrum.
It didn’t so much fall off the table as give in and duck for cover.
But man, especially when he was on, those hundreds and hundreds of times he had it working, the big leagues’ best batters were baffled.
“It’s like it has a parachute on it,” Dodgers catcher Paul Lo Duca told Sports Illustrated in 2002.
Oh, and Hoffman has one kidney. The right one has been solo since Hoffman was an infant and the left one wasn’t working. When he played shortstop at Arizona, he had to indemnify the university against liability in the event he was hit by a ball.
He batted .212 in one season in Single-A in the Reds organization, was converted to a pitcher in 1991 and drafted by the Marlins in the expansion draft before the 1993 season.
He was traded to the Padres in June 1993, part of the return for Gary Sheffield.
Hoffman became the Padres closer in ’94. By the summer of 1998, he was entering games to “Hells Bells.” He took over as the franchise’s face following Gwynn’s retirement at the end of 2001. He is a San Diego icon forever.