As the ceremony to retire Hoffman's No. 51 was winding down Sunday, the Padres played a video of his father, Ed, singing the national anthem on opening day at Fenway Park in 1981, when Glenn Hoffman played shortstop for the Boston Red Sox.
Ed Hoffman, a former Marine who was known as "The Singing Usher" at Anaheim Stadium, died in 1995.
Trevor Hoffman, baseball's career saves leader who had to keep his composure in the ninth inning so many times during his career, wiped away tears.
"It was totally a surprise," Hoffman said later. "To see Dad up there, I felt like I tried to keep it together pretty good out there. I'm proud of him. The more I think about Dad, the Marines behind us (in the color guard), I haven't heard his voice in a while. Just an amazing moment to be able to share that with everybody, to let all fans in San Diego know that Dad could sing, could hit a high note, was so proud of his country, proud to be able to sing at his boys' sporting events. Pretty fitting. A lot of pride going through all of us today."
Known for his menacing glare, high leg kick and wicked changeup, Hoffman had 601 saves in a career lasting from 1993-2010, 552 of them with the Padres.
Hoffman seemed humbled by the ceremony, during which the Padres gave him a black 1958 Cadillac convertible and a gold pitching rubber to commemorate his 601 saves. The ceremony began with Hoffman walking in from the bullpen hand-in-hand with wife Tracy and sons Brody, Quinn and Wyatt.
He was greeted by several Padres from the past, including the other four whose numbers have been retired and are displayed atop the batter's eye at Petco Park: Steve Garvey (6), Tony Gwynn (19), Randy Jones (35) and Dave Winfield (31).
During his speech, Hoffman spoke to his sons.
"If this doesn't touch your heart, I don't know what will, boys. One person doesn't deserve all this," he said.
Asked later what he meant, Hoffman said: "Just to keep things in perspective. Not to get too high, if anything. I've been so blessed and so lucky in my career. I just felt uncomfortable with all that attention."
The ceremony was held before a game against the Florida Marlins, who picked Hoffman in the 1992 expansion draft. After getting two saves with Florida as an unknown rookie, he was acquired by the Padres in a five-player trade on June 24, 1993, as part of San Diego's "fire sale." That trade sent Gary Sheffield to the Marlins.
San Diego's general manager at the time, Randy Smith, took heat from the fans for that trade and others as he was forced to deal established stars to trim the payroll.
"The only way to acquire quality players is by trading quality players," Smith said Sunday. "It turned out fantastic. Obviously we didn't think we were going to be getting a guy that's going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. As great a pitcher as Trevor is, he's even a better person."
Another former Padres general manager, Kevin Towers, and San Diego manager Bud Black both spoke highly of Hoffman's work ethic and integrity. Both mentioned how Hoffman would never hide from the media after a blown save, even the one in the epic 13-inning, wild-card tiebreaker loss at Colorado in 2007.
"Closers have to wear it and he wore it as well as anybody," said Towers, who was fired by the Padres at the end of the 2009 season and now has the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks in first place.
Towers was so superstitious that he wouldn't watch Hoffman during his save opportunities. He'd usually hang out in the manager's office until the game was over.
Among the video tributes was one from AC/DC singer Brian Johnson. Hoffman's home save opportunities were always lively, with AC/DC's "Hells Bells" blaring from the sound system the instant he started jogging in from the bullpen.
"It took a life of its own and became bigger than me," Hoffman said. "It was an event. Stick around and make sure they had a chance to hear it and watch it. That first bell, my foot hits the track, and it goes off. I miss it. I never took it for granted. It was a once-in-a-lifetime gift."
Hoffman said he has the song on his iPod.
"I try not to have the windows down and play it too loud, go too crazy driving around town. I have no choice now with the convertible. That might just be the only song in it," he said.
Said former Padres starter Joey Hamilton: "Once the bells rung, the game was over. Put it in the books."