The 600 Club: The Loneliest Man in Baseball
By Trevor Hayes
There are over 1,000 men who have 600 major league hits, 987 who have recorded 600 strikeouts, 22 with 600 games started, 17 with 600 stolen bases, 14 with 600 doubles and seven with 600 home runs. But only one man has 600 saves.
Two nights ago, Trevor Hoffman created baseball’s most elite club by collecting his 600th career save against the Cardinals. Today, his cap from the historic event arrived at the Hall of Fame, adding to his generous list of donated artifacts already in Cooperstown.
A milestone 18 years in the making, Hoffman saved his first career game on April 29, 1993 with the Florida Marlins. His third career save came in August 1993 – his first with the Padres, for whom he collected 551 more. After 16 years in San Diego, Hoffman joined the Brewers to amass 46 saves en route to 600.
Forty-one years after the save became an official statistic, the 42-year-old Hoffman has become the master. In a few weeks, he will have held the title of all-time saves leader for four full years. After recording save No. 479 on Sept. 24, 2006 against the Pirates – passing Lee Smith for the all-time lead – Hoffman donated the final-out ball, along with his cap, jersey and spikes from the game, to the Hall of Fame.
A seven-time All-Star, his ascension was slow at first, before he ramped up his dominance toward the end of the 1990s. It took him four years to reach 100. But numbers 200, 300 and 500 each fell just two seasons after his last century milestone marker. His journey from No. 300 to No. 400 took a detour because of two shoulder surgeries, but he rebounded, accumulating 248 saves after not recording a single save in 2003.
Since Hoyt Wilhelm became the first pitcher who was primarily a reliever elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985, Rollie Fingers (1992), Dennis Eckersley (2004), Bruce Sutter (2006) and Goose Gossage (2008) all have gained admittance to Cooperstown. Among the group, Wilhelm and Fingers were once the all-time saves leader. Sutter held the single season record and Gossage for a period of time was the active leader. None of them, however, come within 200 saves of Hoffman’s mark.
During his journey to 600, Hoffman has had history and the Hall of Fame in mind. Along with his 479th save donation, he also sent his jersey, spikes and a ball from save No. 400. In the Padres locker of the Museum’s Today’s Game exhibit, save final-out ball and his jersey, cap, glove and spikes can be found from his 500th. Once accessioned into the collection, the 600 save cap will also go on display in Today’s Game on the second floor of the Museum.
Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.