SAN DIEGO -- In his remarkable 18-year career as one of the best relief pitchers in baseball history, Trevor Hoffman racked up 601 saves. He slammed the door on yet another milestone Wednesday: a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Hoffman's third year on the ballot proved a charm. He appeared on 79.9 percent of the ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America -- a 5.9 percent boost from last year's results and well above the 75 percent threshold required for election.
Along with Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Vladimir Guerrero -- who were also elected on Wednesday -- Hoffman will be feted during a July 29 induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., that also will include Modern Baseball Era Committee electees Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.
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"It's hard to describe the emotions that flood you right away," Hoffman said. "I know it's a very standard line, but so many things go through you. You think of your early days in the game, you think of parts of your career, you understand what you put in on a daily basis. To be sitting at this stage, seven years after you retire, it just comes full circle. It's the cherry on top of a sundae."
Hoffman learned of the news in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, prior to the official announcement. He celebrated briefly with his family at his Del Mar home, before heading to Petco Park for a news conference. On Thursday, Hoffman will head to New York to meet with media at 3 p.m. ET. It will air live on MLB Network and MLB.com.
"It was awesome to have family around," Hoffman said. "… We made it a little bit bigger today, with all the family and extended family. We were maybe hedging our bets a little bit. But the disappointment last year is last year. I couldn't be more excited, humbled by the process."
Hoffman will presumably become the third player to don a Padres cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, joining Dave Winfield and former teammate Tony Gwynn. Hoffman paused during his news conference Wednesday to note, of the late Gwynn, "I wish he was here to share this moment."
Drafted by the Reds as a shortstop from the University of Arizona in 1989, Hoffman made his career-altering move to the mound two years later. "Career survival," Hoffman called it, after he batted .227 with 55 errors in two pro seasons as an infielder. He broke into the Majors with the Marlins in 1993, but he was traded to the Padres midway through his first season.
"What he became really changed the organization and the future of the franchise," said former Padres executive Randy Smith, who sent Gary Sheffield to the Marlins for Hoffman and two other prospects. "He's a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word."
Hoffman spent 16 years with San Diego, before he headed to Milwaukee in 2009 to finish his career.
And what a career it was.
In 2006, Hoffman surpassed Lee Smith for Major League Baseball's all-time saves record. He would later become the first pitcher in history to reach the 500- and 600-save milestones. Hoffman's 601 saves are second only to Mariano Rivera, a surefire Hall of Famer himself and the only pitcher to have since joined Hoffman in those exclusive clubs.
Among relievers with at least 1,000 innings, Hoffman ranks second in save percentage (88.8), eighth in ERA (2.87), fourth in ERA+ (141), second in opponents' batting average (.211), second in WHIP (1.06) and first in strikeout rate (25.8).
Hoffman clearly relished the role of pitching in the ninth inning of close games, and the fans in San Diego adored him for it. AC/DC's "Hells Bells" played every time he entered a home game in San Diego, and it quickly became an anthem for Padres fans. (Fittingly, Hoffman entered his news conference Wednesday with "Hells Bells" playing in the background.)
"I couldn't have imagined being in a different role," Hoffman said. "There's nothing better than flying those doors open, hearing some cool music, getting the fans riled up and having that home cooking to go out and get things done. It's a great role. It's something I cherished."
Hoffman's brother Glenn serves as the Padres' third-base coach and spent nine seasons as a big league infielder. He was on hand for Wednesday's celebration (and even prank-dialed his brother twice to ease some of the tension in the room, while the family waited for the phone call).
If anyone understands Trevor's relationship with San Diego, it's Glenn, who was quick to note that Wednesday's announcement was a victory for the city, too.
"San Diego is his city and his town," Glenn Hoffman said. "The people here love him. … And he's built that relationship to where they can celebrate, too. They can go to New York, and they've got something to celebrate."
Indeed, Trevor Hoffman is perhaps as revered as any living San Diego sports figure and has already been enshrined in the Padres Hall of Fame and the city's sports Hall of Fame. Come July, he'll add another Hall to the list when he receives baseball's highest honor.