As ballots for baseball’s Hall of Fame stream in, most projections show that Trevor Hoffman will make the cut and be inducted. This is great because we can all stop caring if national writers think that closers deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, which will help reconcile our own thoughts that the Padres shouldn’t sink significant resources into the closer position because it’s overrated. There is really no debate that Trevor was one of the most prolific closers in history. They named the goddamned best NL closer award after him, for what that’s worth. He also loves to crush beers at my personal home bar, Encinitas Alehouse, although we should all reserve judgement until we find out if he has the stamina, temerity, and greatness that joining the 80 Beers in 80 Days Club requires (disclaimer: I am a member in good standing of the Alehouse Clubb).
I think it’s important to also note what a great teammate Trevor was also. He was the opposite of a stereotypical superstar that was all about themselves. I’ve openly said how great the 2003 Padres were in my mind. Not because they were good. They were terrible. Rondell White was their terrible all star that year, before being traded before the waiver deadline in August. That’s right, the 2003 Padres All Star wasn’t good enough to be claimed off waivers. So why did I love 2003? Easy. Rod “Shooter” Beck and his 82 mph fastball saved 20 of 20 games while Trevor Hoffman was injured. Little known at the time, Shooter was struggling with a massive drug addiction during 2003 and 2004, which eventually claimed his life. After Padres Twitter was reliving Shooter’s season this weekend, I stumbled across an old ESPN article about Beck’s demons. In it, I learned about the lengths Trevor went through to support his teammate. After the Padres released Beck in August 2004 when his pitching came back to Earth, Trevor Hoffman (and Scott Linebrink), after hearing about Rod’s troubles, headed out to Arizona to meet with their old friend.
By the beginning of the fall, Linebrink and Hoffman heard that Stacey had kicked Rod out of the house, and that he was living in his famous RV by himself at Lake Pleasant campground, about 30 miles from Phoenix. Both men knew Beck was in trouble, especially without Stacey.
So they took the unique and amazing step of traveling to Arizona. With hope, they flew to Phoenix on a Saturday in October 2004, Linebrink from his offseason home in Texas, and Hoffman from San Diego, and Stacey directed them to the quiet campground.
Hoffman and Linebrink were nervous, and not knowing whether he would be high or armed or both. They approached and knocked on the RV.
Beck opened the door, startled to see his two former teammates. He invited them inside, where the conversation over the next few hours was not about baseball but about trying to save his life.
“We just told him we loved him,” Linebrink says. “We miss our friend. We know there’s some things going on that are not healthy for him.”
This is way above and beyond what is expected of a teammate during the offseason, and shows just what kind of man and what kind of teammate Trevor was. It didn’t go unrecognized by Shooter.
“His bark is much worse than his bite,” Hoffman says. “I think the minute you get the opportunity to have him let you in, you’re in for life.”
Hoffman’s words ring more true than he could ever imagine.
Beck kept two framed jerseys in his living room. One was a Beck Cubs jersey. The other was Hoffman’s.
On the back of Hoffman’s jersey was an inscription to his friend:
Shooter, We all know we’re lucky to be able to play this game. But it’s the game that’s lucky to have players like you who play it hard and play it right.All the best,
Beck played with a ton of great players, including possibly the greatest hitter of all time, Barry Bonds. And he chose to keep Trevor’s jersey displayed. During that tumultuous 2003 season that saw Padres fans have to stomach watching Jay Witasick starts, Rod Beck gave us something to cheer for and a reason to watch. For that, I’ll never forget him giving me one of my most fun summers of my life, a summer that made me fall back in love with the Padres as I finished college. I flew back from DC three times that summer, despite a post college salary of $26K, and lucked into seeing 3 of Shooter’s saves. In my mind, he’s a Padres legend. And after learning of Trevor’s deeds in supporting his former teammate, there’s no doubt in my mind that Trevor is a Hall of Famer both on the field and off the field.
While we are on the topic of how great Rod Beck was on the Padres, please enjoy this quote from Scott Linebrink on the subject:
“A familiar picture that I’d see of him [in my mind] was him riding the bike with a sweat towel over his neck, smokin’ a cigarette, doin’ a crossword puzzle, riding about five-miles-an-hour,” Linebrink says, then laughs. “He said he was always playing for the tie.”