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When Hoffman broke Padres' saves record

Closer turned a comebacker into a double play for No. 45 in 1998
San Diego Padres

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Shortly after Trevor Hoffman became the Padres' closer, he became aware of Mark Davis and his single-season franchise record of 44 saves.

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Shortly after Trevor Hoffman became the Padres' closer, he became aware of Mark Davis and his single-season franchise record of 44 saves.

"He won the Cy Young Award in 1989 when he set that record," Hoffman said. "I also took a look at the records of some other Padres relievers ... Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Craig Lefferts. It was one of those things, you want to know who was there before you."

"At the time, I wasn't thinking about records or anything. Just checking in with other players who had been there. I saw Fingers had won three Rolaids Reliever of the Year awards as a Padre and Davis also won that award in 1989."

But Hoffman revisited the Padres' single-season saves record late during the 1996 season. And he fell two shy of tying Davis' franchise record.

"I started thinking about the Padres' single-season saves record in 1996," said Hoffman. "I was looking for a little triumph that might gain some ground on the nay-sayers who were still out there from the Gary Sheffield trade that brought me to the Padres."

But those thoughts quickly faded into the background as the Padres rallied late to take the National League West title away from the Dodgers on the final weekend of the season. "Any save I got was more significant because of the role it played in what the team was doing," said Hoffman. "The personal stuff became secondary."

Hoffman did pick up saves in each of the final three games of the season at Dodger Stadium - three wins that catapulted the Padres past the Dodgers to the National League West championship.

Personally, however, he fell short in two quests. Davis' single-season saves record stood. And Jeff Brantley of the Reds topped Hoffman by a tiebreaker in the race for the National League Rolaids Reliever of the Year award.

A season later, Hoffman would fall three saves shy of a second straight 40-save season.

Then came his record run of 1998.

And on Sept. 1 at Qualcomm Stadium, Hoffman set the Padres' single-season saves record with No. 45 in a 9-8 victory over the Mets.

"I don't remember much about the game when I got the record," said Hoffman. "Again, because of the team circumstances, it wasn't as important as to what we were doing, which was winning."

Hoffman entered the game in the ninth.

He struck out the first Met he faced, Matt Franco. Jay Payton then singled, putting the tying run on. The next hitter, Edgardo Alfonzo hit a comebacker to Hoffman, who converted it into a game-ending double play.

Hoffman officially set the Padres' single-season record on his 11th pitch, converting his 12th straight save opportunity.

San Diego Padres