Sunday, September 24, 2006

Congratulations, Trevor, and the Best of Baseball

SAN DIEGO -- For nearly 14 seasons, it has been "Trevor Time" for closer extraordinaire Trevor Hoffman in a Padres uniform. And on Sunday, it was time for Hoffman to take his place among baseball immortals.

With 14 pitches and his usual large dose of moxie, Hoffman recorded his 479th save and went into first place on the all-time list ahead of Lee Smith by retiring all three Pirates he faced to close a 2-1 victory that ended the home portion of the Padres' 2006 schedule with a flourish...

"It was overwhelming," Hoffman said after the game and all the festivities were over. "It's become a very humbling experience. It's been fantastic up to this point. It's hard to put into words to explain what it feels like. It's more than one person deserves."...

Asked how much of that last play he was able to take in, Hoffman said:

"I saw the ball off the bat. I see Manny dive. Expletive, expletive in my head. 'I'm going to have to get the next guy.' Blumer fields it. Comes up. Throws. 'Oh, my. What happened? Thank goodness.' I don't mean it sarcastically. That's just the way it played out in my mind."

With that, what ensued was a deafening roar and a raucous celebration at the mound worthy of a championship clincher. Catcher Josh Bard leapt Yogi Berra-Don Larsen style into Hoffman's arms as the nearly 39-year-old reliever was mobbed by his teammates, who came streaming out of the Padres' first-base side dugout and in from the center-field bullpen.

On the Pirates' side, the players remained in their dugout paying homage, Jim Tracy, Hoffman's long-ago Minor League manager in the Cincinnati organization the year he was converted from a shortstop to a pitcher, standing on the front step. Some offered applause. Some watched the proceedings with respect.

"I've never seen a crowd get into one inning for one guy like that before," said John Grabow, a member of the relief fraternity himself. "You get goose bumps even if you are on the other team."

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