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Trevor Hoffman's 10 greatest saves

When the ninth inning rolled around and "Hells Bells" chimed, the Padres' legendary closer and All-Star Game spokesman kicked into gear
June 29, 2016

The AC/DC rock anthem "Hells Bells" begins with a mournful and methodic chiming of a bell that's ultimately overlapped by lead guitarist Angus Young's driving intro. For 16 years, the first of those chimes signaled Padres closer Trevor Hoffman's entrance from the bullpen at Qualcomm Stadium and, later, Petco Park.

The AC/DC rock anthem "Hells Bells" begins with a mournful and methodic chiming of a bell that's ultimately overlapped by lead guitarist Angus Young's driving intro. For 16 years, the first of those chimes signaled Padres closer Trevor Hoffman's entrance from the bullpen at Qualcomm Stadium and, later, Petco Park. Fans would go wild at the sound as Hoffman sprinted toward the mound. And by the time the right-hander, who finished his career with a National League-record 601 saves, began warming up, the drums would kick in and Young's guitar licks made way for Brian Johnson's raw vocals.
I'm rolling thunder, pouring rain.
And with that, it was game on for one of MLB's elite closers. "Having a song coming into the game was kind of in conjunction with the movie Major League," Hoffman recalls. "It caught everybody off guard when I ran in from the bullpen at Qualcomm. There was no gate to open; you'd just turn and go. The minute my foot hit the grass, the big bell went off for the first time. It caught me off guard a little bit [too], but the fans were really into it.

"The first night I did well, but the next Moises Alou hit a homer, so I figured it must have been the song. Then I said, 'No, it's not the song. I just made a bad pitch. We'll keep it.' It's a good thing that I did keep it. It was pretty cool."
I won't take no prisoners, won't spare no lives
Nobody's puttin' up a fight
I got my bell I'm gonna take you to hell
Armed with the bells at his back, No. 51 would set the benchmark for the most saves in history, notching his last against the Mets on Sept. 29, 2010. But not even a full season after Hoffman's retirement, Mariano Rivera -- who trotted in from the Yankee Stadium 'pen to his own rock anthem -- usurped his record, wrapping up his career with 652. Let's wind back the clock to look at Hoffman's 10 most memorable endings.
Save No. 1
April 29, 1993; Marlins 6, Braves 5
Video: [email protected]: Hoffman earns his first major league save
Brian Harvey was the Marlins' closer during their inaugural season after expansion in 1993. Hoffman was a set-up guy asked to fill in and protect a one-run lead against the Braves in the bottom of the ninth at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. After walking Otis Nixon, Hoffman retired Jeff Blauser, Terry Pendleton and David Justice
in order.
"Your first one is always going to be memorable because you don't anticipate it," says Hoffman. "Harv wasn't in Atlanta, and I got my first one there."
He would notch one more save with the Marlins, on June 7, 1993, before being traded to the Padres 17 days later in a deal that sent Gary Sheffield to Florida and gave San Diego one of the most iconic figures in franchise history.
Save No. 96
Sept. 27, 1996; Padres 5, Dodgers 2
For the only time in club history, the Dodgers and Padres contested the NL West title down to the wire. On a Friday night at Dodger Stadium, in the year after the Wild Card was instituted, the Padres secured at least a tie for the NL Wild Card berth. L.A. had already clinched the Wild Card and had a two-game lead over San Diego in the standings. But in the top of the 10th, the Padres began to chip away at the Dodgers' advantage, as Ken Caminiti doubled in the go-ahead run. Hoffman came on in the bottom of the frame to attempt his 40th save of the season and got Mike Piazza to ground into a DP to seal it.
Save No. 97
Sept. 28, 1996; Padres 4, Dodgers 2
The very next day, a pair of Padres icons helped San Diego close the gap with Los Angeles even further. Tony Gwynn drove in two runs with a single in the top of the eighth, and, as had become customary, Hoffman came on to pitch the ninth.
But plenty of drama ensued when Eric Karros led off with a double and pinch-hitter Billy Ashley drew a two-out walk, putting the tying runs on base. Hoffman struck out pinch-hitter Dave Hansen to escape the jam, though, and help the Padres tie the Dodgers for the division lead and clinch the Senior Circuit Wild Card berth.
Save No. 98
Sept. 29, 1996; Padres 2, Dodgers 0

On the last day of the season, San Diego won in 11 innings to capture its second NL West title and first since '84. Chris Gwynn, Tony's younger brother and a .178 hitter that year, broke a scoreless tie in the top of the 11th with a pinch-hit, two-run double. All that was left was for Hoffman to record his 42nd and final save of the season. He set Chad Curtis down looking for the final out and his 111th K, a career high that he matched in 1997. "Those three [saves] on consecutive days were great to help us win the division," he says. "It was cool that there was something on the line and we put up a divisional flag rather than a Wild Card flag."
Save No. 184
Sept. 12, 1998; Padres 8, Dodgers 7
With just about two weeks left in the regular season, the Padres clinched the division title at Qualcomm Stadium. After the Dodgers went up, 7-0, in the fifth inning, San Diego scored three times in the bottom of the frame and added five more runs in the sixth to go ahead by one. The score held through the next two frames before Hoffman trotted in from the 'pen in the top of the ninth. He prevailed, but not without allowing a single and a walk and tossing a wild pitch.
As per usual, though, in a career that saw him whiff 1,133 batters over 1,089.1 innings, he recorded the final out on a swinging K, this time setting down Matt Luke, who had five RBI in the game. "That was something," he says. "We came back from seven down to clinch. It was awesome to dog pile at home."
Save No. 478
Sept. 23, 2006; Padres 2, Pirates 1

Nearly a decade after Lee Smith's retirement, Hoff tied the all-time saves leader with a 12-pitch performance to notch No. 478. He retired the Bucs in order in the top of the ninth: Xavier Nady flew out to center, Ronny Paulino grounded out to second, and Ryan Doumit struck out swinging.
"It was overwhelming," Hoffman says. "It became a very humbling experience. It's hard to put into words what it feels like. It's more than one person deserves."
Save No. 479
Sept. 24, 2006; Padres 2, Pirates 1
Video: [email protected]: Trevor Hoffman records his 479th career save
A day later and with the exact same one-run margin of victory against Pittsburgh, Hoffman needed just 14 pitches and his usual large dose of moxie to record his 479th save. By again retiring all three Pirates he faced -- Doumit and Jose Bautista struck out, and Geoff Blum made a great play in the hole on pinch-hitter Freddy Sanchez's grounder wide of third -- he claimed first place on the all-time saves list, closing the home portion of the Padres' 2006 schedule with a flourish.
"Those were two great ones at home against Pittsburgh," Hoffman says. "I know these are individual ones, not team ones. [It was special] to have so many people there who had a role in me becoming a pitcher: family; Jim Tracy on the bench with Pittsburgh; Jimmy Lett in his bullpen; guys I had in Double-A and Single-A ball. Obviously to do it at home was great."
Postseason Save No. 4
Oct, 7, 2006; Padres 3, Cardinals 1
This was the last of four saves in Hoffman's 12th and final playoff appearance. It was also the Padres' only victory in 10 National League Division Series games against the Cardinals between 1996, 2005 and '06.
"They kicked our butts so many times, it was like, 'Thank God, we finally got one there,'" says Hoffman.
That one proved to be an easy three up, three down for Hoff in the ninth, as Juan Encarnacion struck out swinging for the final out.
Save No. 500
June 6, 2007; Padres 5, Dodgers 2
Hoffman was the first closer to reach the 500-saves mark, and this one was special, of course, especially coming against the rival Dodgers.
"Milestone numbers were something," says Hoffman. "Nobody had ever gotten to those levels yet, so it was pretty amazing. It just means you're staying healthy, being productive."
Hoffman saved this game for starter Greg Maddux during his short stay with the Padres on his way to the Hall of Fame and 355 wins. He entered in the ninth with a three-run lead. After Nomar Garciaparra opened with a double, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez and Russell Martin went down in order, with the latter striking out looking.
Save No. 600
Sept. 7, 2010; Brewers 4, Cardinals 2

Three seasons and another 100 clutch outings later, Hoffman recorded save No. 600 out of the Brewers' bullpen. The campaign was a struggle, as he was pitching through tendinitis and had lost his job to John Axford. But he still managed 10 saves that season. In this one, Colby Rasmus singled but was quickly erased on a double-play grounder. When pinch-hitter Aaron Miles grounded out meekly to short, a wild celebration ensued on the Miller Park mound.
"That was special, [even] though I kind of limped into it," Hoffman says. "This was an under-the-radar type save that was so long in the making. My career was just about over, and it was very important from an individual standpoint.
"When you're closing, your team has played the whole game to put it in your hands, and now it's your responsibility. You either save the game or lose the game. There is no in between."
This article appears in the MLB Official All-Star Game Program. Click here to purchase a copy, and read more features on

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for He's covered the Padres since 1976, including the first two All-Star Games in San Diego.