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Hoffman earns 479th career save in Padres' victory

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- There was no doubt for whom the heavy metal
bells were tolling on Sunday -- Trevor Hoffman and his 479 career
saves.

• November 1992: Drafted by the Marlins from the Reds with the eighth pick of the expansion draft.
• June 1993: Dealt by the Marlins to the Padres as part of the Gary Sheffield trade.
• December 2005: Remained a Padre by signing a one-year free agent deal worth $5 million.
• Of note: A five-time All-Star (1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006) ... 1998 Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award ... Led league in saves in 1998.

Year

Saves

Blown

ERA

1993

5

3

3.90

1994

20

3

2.57

1995

31

7

3.88

1996

42

7

2.25

1997

37

7

2.66

1998

53

1

1.48

1999

40

3

2.14

2000

43

7

2.99

2001

43

3

3.43

2002

38

3

2.73

2003

0

0

2.00

2004

41

4

2.31

2005

43

3

2.97

'06 to date

43

5

1.95

Totals

479

56

2.70

The San Diego Padres' 38-year-old closer pitched a 1-2-3 ninth
inning in front of a roaring crowd to become baseball's career
saves leader in a memorable 2-1 win for the NL West leaders over
the Pittsburgh Pirates.

As soon as NL batting leader Freddy Sanchez grounded out to
shortstop, Hoffman had passed Lee Smith and the celebration was on.

Hoffman had just enough time to pump his fist before catcher
Josh Bard jumped into his arms. Hoffman was soon mobbed by his
teammates.

Even the Pirates stuck around, applauding from the dugout.
Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy, who managed Hoffman the year he was
converted from shortstop to reliever in the minor leagues, stood on
the top step and clapped.

"It's overwhelming," Hoffman said. "It becomes a very
humbling experience. It's hard to put into words what it truly
feels like."

Leading 2-1, in their regular-season home finale, the Padres had
two runners on in the eighth and could have turned it into a
non-save situation. They didn't.

With the sellout crowd of 41,932 on its feet and cheering, the
38-year-old Hoffman jogged in from the bullpen, staring at the
ground the whole way, with AC/DC's "Hells Bells" blaring, as it
has for each of his home save opportunities since July 25, 1998.

Hoffman, known for his menacing glare, high leg kick and nasty
changeup, opened the ninth by striking out Ryan Doumit on a
changeup, then struck out Jose Bautista on a fastball.

Getting the third out was a chore.

Sanchez, who was pinch-hitting, hit a grounder past third
baseman Manny Alexander to shortstop Geoff Blum.

"I saw the ball off the bat, I see Manny dive," Hoffman said.
"'... We're going to have to get the next guy, Blummer fields it,
comes up, throws, oh my! What happened? Thank goodness."

Fireworks went off and streamers came shooting off the Western
Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse, where a banner proclaiming
Hoffman's saves total was changed to 479.

Hoffman hugged his mother, his wife, his three young boys and
other family members, including brother Glenn, the Padres' third
base coach.

Padres CEO Sandy Alderson presented Hoffman with a "Hells
Bells" trophy to commemorate the record save.

When Hoffman saw the Pirates applauding, he doffed his cap
toward them, then placed it over his heart.

"It was a class move not only from their manager Jim Tracy
being on the top step, but in talking to him, he said they wanted
to do that," Hoffman said.

"I don't think you can really explain what it means to have
your teammates run out on the field and surround you and just be a
part of the moment, but also to have the opposing team to respect
the way you go about your business. It was a kind gesture on their
part."

Commissioner Bud Selig called to congratulate Hoffman. The
relief ace's jersey, hat, game ball and cleats will be going to the
Hall of Fame.

Hoffman grabbed another ball that was used in the game as a
keepsake, as he's done with a ball from each of his previous 478
saves.

It was his NL-best 43rd save in 48 chances.

Smith piled up 478 saves from 1980-1997. The Padres invited
Smith to be in San Diego this weekend, but he had prior
commitments.

Manager Bruce Bochy said he reflected back on all the times
Hoffman has closed games.

"It was emotional for me," Bochy said. "He's such a special
guy, great teammate. We all know about his talent, but as a person,
they just don't get any better."

Hoffman's first two career saves came as a rookie with Florida
before the Padres obtained him on June 24, 1993, in what was then a
hugely unpopular deal at the height of San Diego's salary-shedding
"fire sale." The Padres gave up slugger Gary Sheffield, who won
the NL batting title with San Diego the previous season.

And to think that Hoffman was booed in his first few appearances
in a Padres uniform.

"I knew it was something I couldn't change in a day," he said.

Tracy echoed Bochy's feelings.

"It's a credit to him because he's one of the finest people in
the game," said Tracy, who managed the rival Dodgers the previous
five seasons. "It's a tribute to his resiliency. It's a tribute to
his work ethic. It's a tribute to his moxie because a not a lot of
people can do what he does."

Clay Hensley, backed by impressive home runs from Russell
Branyan and Josh Bard, struck out a career-high nine in winning his
third straight start for San Diego, which retained its 1½-game lead
over the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers. Hensley (11-11) held the
Pirates to one run and seven hits.

The Padres have won nine of 12 overall and 14 of their last 16
home games.

Bard put the Padres ahead 2-1 when he greeted reliever Juan
Perez (0-1) by homering into the first row of the second deck in
left field on a 1-0 pitch leading off the sixth. It was Bard's
career-high ninth.

Pittsburgh went ahead 1-0 in the first on Doumit's two-out
single.

Pittsburgh's Marty McLeary, making his first big league start at
the age of 32, allowed one run and four hits in five innings.

Game notes
McLeary made three appearances with the Padres in 2004,
with no decisions and a 14.73 ERA in 3 2-3 innings. ... Branyan
left after he was hit on a hand by a pitch from Juan Perez on the
first pitch after Bard's homer in the sixth.