SAN DIEGO -- Trevor Hoffman saved more baseball games than any man ever, but nothing time-freezes his essence more than the fact that San Diego manager Bud Black best remembers Hoffman for one save he blew.
Hoffman, who had his No. 51 uniform retired on Sunday by the Padres, didn't blow too many opportunities -- 76, compared to the record 601 conversions -- and the one in Black's memory was anything but ordinary: Game 163 in 2007, the 13th-inning meltdown in Denver that barred the Padres from the postseason.
"As gut-wrenching a loss as that was for a lot of us, he stood up right away and answered the questions," Black recalled. "Not an hour later, but right away.
"I mean, we walked into the clubhouse, I addressed the team briefly and we opened the doors and Trevor is in front of his locker. He was as stand-up a player as I've ever seen. That's what I'll remember."
Hoffman shared that characteristic of accountability with another closer who saved a lot of Black's pitching wins for the Royals, the late Dan Quisenberry.
"Quiz was also like that: He stood up after blowing a game," Black said. "They were both always there. So many players disappear after a bad game, into the kitchen or into the weight room.
"Trevor always knew and respected his role. He knew what was expected of him, and handled it every time. He knew what he had to do and he did it."
Black managed only the final two of Hoffman's 16 seasons with the Padres. But Kevin Towers, the San Diego general manager for most of them, remembers Hoffman most significantly for the exact same episode.
"Ten minutes after that [2007 play-in game], I saw the national media all over Trevor," said Towers, now the Arizona GM who joined the dozens of former associates attending Hoffman's festivities on Sunday. "It was hard to even watch that.
"I'm often asked about my greatest moment in the game, and that's it. Not many guys, after that kind of a game ... he was up four, five times before even getting into it ... could've done it. We knew the club was not heading to Philadelphia [for the Division Series] but back to San Diego.
"But I wasn't surprised to see it. He was the kind of guy who was always front and center. He took things head-on. That's what made him so great. A lot of guys would go hide. Not him. He took it on his shoulders, probably to try to soften the blow for everyone else. That's just who he was."