I said Sunday night? I guess I should have said Wednesday morning. This is the life I lead.
Anticipating a sellout, I decided to get to Petco Park real early on Sunday. I ended up pulling into a parking spot around 1115. The streets were full of fans at a level I normally see 30 minutes before game time, so there's that; but I was surprised to learn later the game was not a sellout (fairly obvious from looking around during the ceremony, confirmed with the announced crowd of 40,065).
I know it's late August, and I know the Padres are 10 games under (after winning last night), and the Chargers had a pre-season game Sunday night at Dallas. If Trevor Hoffman is really the second-most beloved Padre ever as Gaslamp Ball asserts (and I believe), one would think the game would have been a sellout. Philosophically that fact speaks volumes about the amount of work this organization still has to do to connect with a metropolitan area of 3 million.
The ceremony started with Beautiful Day by U2. Great choice. Love that song, and the weather Sunday was Chamber-of-Commerce good (71 and mostly sunny). Ted Leitner strode to the microphone as the emcee, and there was no better choice to run this ceremony. None. Leitner has his faults, but he is very, VERY good as a public speaker and did an outstanding job on this afternoon.
There was discussion during the game (mostly led by Leitner) about why Hoffman is 'the greatest closer in the history of major league baseball'. It centered on the saves record. Hoffman is the only man with 600 saves, finishing at 601. The problem with counting statistics is they will eventually be broken. On this very day, Mariano Rivera recorded save #592, meaning he will break Hoffman's record before this season is over. I'd rather use this one - Hoffman is the only man to save 40 games or more 9 times in his career (Rivera has done it seven times). As opposed to a longevity stat, it's a sustained superior performance one.
The proximity of Rivera to breaking Hoffman's record likely drove doing the ceremony now vice 5 years from now when Hoffman (hopefully) is a first ballot HoF. Don't underestimate the power of having a public ceremony where the phrase 'best of all time' can be used without argument. Hoffman deserved to have his number retired period - the 'worlds greatest closer' is just a bonus - but there was no reason to rush to do this ceremony. I'm certainly not saying the Padres shouldn't have retired his number this year, but I do think they wanted to honor him while he was still top dog in terms of total saves, which will not be true after the 2011 season.
Twice now this season Trevor Hoffman has come out of the bullpen to Hell's Bells - Opening Day, and Sunday. I've gotten goosebumps watching it each time. The stadium exploded in cheering as the music started and Trevor walked onto the field. The Padres etched 'TREVOR TIME' on the warning track in dead center during the lead-up to this ceremony, Hoffman came out with his entire family holding hands. Cool moment.
If Greg Hoffman says Trevor wore 51 because he couldn't have 15 (Bruce Bochy had it) when he became a Padre I believe him. That said, Kurt Stilwell wore #15 when Trevor was traded to San Diego. Stillwell was sent to the California Angels on 26 July. Now Bruce Bochy was on that staff, so it may be Bochy took 15 as soon as Stillwell left the team. Here's something interesting - Baseball Reference indicates Hoffman wore 51 as a Marlin. I wonder if Hoffy reversed his number because he shifted from shortstop to the mound.
21 August 11 will forever be known as Trevor Hoffman Day. Wouldn't it be cool to have a day named after you?
I did hear a small 'boo' when Jeff Moorad's name was read by Leitner (thanking him for honoring Hoffman). Understandable, but not needed on this day. There are plenty of other forums to express dismay at the Padres $40 million dollar roster cap.
I did not know Hoffman played college ball with JT Snow.
Jerry Coleman got one of the 3 biggest ovations during the 'parade of well-wishers'. And the Colonel can still run! I hope I'm that agile when I'm in my 80s. Heck I hope I'm still vertical when I'm 80.
Second of three big ovations for Steve Finley. Finley should run a class on how to leave an organization. I still remember the full-page ad he took out in the SDUT thanking the fans for their support when he left for Arizona following the 1998 season. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he was one heck of a CF while here (2 Gold Gloves and an All Star appearance; he also finished in the Top 10 of 1996 MVP voting, something else I'd forgotten). I had season tickets in 1997* and can still see him chasing fly balls down in my mind's eye.
*yeah I know - Division Champs in 1996, NL Champs in 1998, I had season tix in 1997. My timing always sucks.
Other big cheers came in for Ryan Klesko, Rickey Henderson (and his ridiculous suit that only Rickey could pull off), and Rollie Fingers.
Love that Caminiti's wife was included, as were Mike Darr's widow and Rob Beck's widow. One of several wet eye moments for me.
Jake Peavy on the big screen brought a surprised cheer, as did Bruce Bochy's comments, and Brian Johnson of AC/DC's tribute was all kinds of awesome.
The four already honored players (Steve Garvey, Randy Jones, Dave Winfield, and Tony Gwynn, who got the last big ovation) came in through the CF fence to the strains of music from Field of Dreams. It got me thinking - what other franchise can say all those honored with a retired number are still alive? Obviously I'm not including Jackie Robinson because he never played for the Padres. Turns out, there are several - Arizona, Milwaukee Brewers, and Montreal/Washington in the National League; and Baltimore and Toronto in the American League.
More U2 when Hoffman's #51 was unveiled, this time Pride.
Words cannot express how great that 1958 Cadillac looked in the mid-afternoon sun on Sunday. What a beautiful car.
It's interesting how connected Hoffman and current Padres closer Heath Bell are beyond sharing the same role on the ballclub. Bell reprises the Hell's Bells by having a bell toll at the beginning of his entrance music (which leads into a quote from the movie 300). Both are sons of USMC veterans, Hoffman's father having fought at Iwo Jima and Bell's father having served 3 years in the Corps.
And like many others said, having a video clip of Trevor's father Ed Hoffman singing the national anthem was a fantastic personal touch. The man could sing, too.
I attended Randy Jones' number retirement ceremony back in 1997, and Tony Gwynn's in 2001. Of those three, this one stands out. The San Diego Padres went out of their way to make Sunday special, and succeeded. It was a pleasure to attend and share in the festivities with the Hoffman family.