Hoffman's first days as a Padre were rough

Performance turned boos into cheers

Hoffman's first days as a Padre were rough

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

Trevor Hoffman didn't receive the warmest of welcomes during his first appearance with the Padres on June 25, 1993.

In fact, he was booed at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. And he was booed again on June 27 and June 29.

Actually, the fans weren't booing Hoffman -- although he struggled in his first three home outings as a Padre -- as much as they were the events that brought him to San Diego.

The day before his Padres debut, Hoffman had been acquired from the Florida Marlins along with pitchers Andres Berumen and Jose Martinez for Gary Sheffield and Rich Rodriguez.

This was the pinnacle of the Padres' infamous "fire sale."

Sheffield had won the National League batting championship in 1992 with a .330 mark and nearly claimed the Triple Crown. In 214 games with the Padres, Sheffield hit 43 homers with 136 RBIs. He was hitting .295 in 1993 when he was traded to the Marlins.

One San Diego writer said the return for Sheffield was beans … "and not magical ones."

Ouch. This was the environment that Trevor and Tracy Hoffman entered. The fans were not happy.

And Hoffman met the challenge by "stinking." That is his word.

"It wasn't pretty for the whole homestand," Hoffman said recently. "It looked like I never pitched before. The fans were very unhappy -- not so much about me, but not being happy about the trade. And I didn't do anything early to make it better."

Hoffman's first outing as a Padre was at home against the Reds. He gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk with a strikeout in an inning. Boo!

Second outing two days later: two innings, three hits, one run allowed. Boo!

Third outing at home another two days later: four runs (three earned) on four hits without retiring a hitter. Boo!

"I thought, 'What have we gotten ourselves into?'" Tracy Hoffman said years later, days before her husband became the Major Leagues' all-time leader in saves. "Those first weeks were terrible."

"It was tough," Trevor Hoffman said recently. "Everybody wants to be liked and accepted." It didn't get better when the Padres went on the road.

After his first nine games as a Padre, Hoffman had a 9.00 ERA. He had allowed 13 runs (11 earned) on 19 hits and eight walks with 13 strikeouts in 11 innings.

But Hoffman soon experienced a mental watershed.

"First, I had to move past my start in San Diego," he recently said. "Once I got grounded, I felt better and just started concentrating hard on pitching. Those early days in San Diego taught me to not worry about what is being said. The way I played would be my loudest voice."

Things quickly began to improve.

Over his last 30 appearances of the 1993 season, Hoffman had a 3.12 ERA, giving up 13 runs (11 earned) on 37 hits and 12 walks with 40 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings.

By the start of the 1994 season, Hoffman was the Padres' closer. The rest is Hall of Fame-worthy history.