Rollie Fingers doesn’t have to twirl his famous handlebar mustache to consider the possibilities. He knows what awaits in this weekend’s Marshall Faulk Celebrity Golf Classic.
“Morgan Run is pretty nice,’’ Fingers said of the Rancho Santa Fe golf course and resort. “If you hit the ball straight you are going to be OK. And it’s a little more wide open that if you don’t, it’s not too bad.’’
Fingers was good, very good, during a 17-year career in the majors that was capped with his Hall of Fame induction. He helped revolutionize the closer position, coming into games to record the most difficult outs of any game — the final three.
He won three world titles with the Oakland A’s, was the Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year in three of his four seasons with the Padres and was named the American League’s MVP and Cy Young Award winner with the Brewers.
“When I was in San Diego those were probably the three best years (1977-78, 1980) I had in the big leagues,’’ said Fingers, a longtime Del Mar resident now living in Las Vegas. “But I didn’t get along with (general manager) Jack McKeon and (president) Ballard Smith. I got tired of dealing with them so I asked to be traded and it was to St. Louis for three days and then on to Milwaukee.
“I hated leaving San Diego because that is a great place. But they never put a winner on the field. I had a good time playing down there but I was used to going to the playoffs for five or six years. You come down there and every year you are out of it by the first of September.’’
Padre Nation hopes to be in it come July. That’s when Rancho Santa Fe’s Trevor Hoffman, the Padres icon, could enter Cooperstown’s hallowed grounds on his second attempt.
Hoffman just missed being elected last year and most think he’ll be headed to upstate New York this summer.
He should be if it was up to Fingers, the second reliever enshrined in 1992 after Bruce Sutter.
In all, just five pitchers known strictly for their bullpen work are Hall of Famers.
“I think Trevor certainly deserves to get in,’’ said Fingers, who had 341 saves in an era when relievers worked more than one inning. “But I don’t know what the sportswriters are thinking. I was surprised Trevor didn’t make it on the first ballot, but there are a lot of guys I think should be in like Lee Smith and Al Oliver. But who knows what those sportswriters are thinking about.’’
It’s the Baseball Writers’ Association of America members deciding Hoffman’s fate. The man with 601 saves, second only to Mariano Rivera, has a backer in Fingers.
“I mean 600 saves,’’ he said. “Those are some great years and great numbers. I would think 600 is like a magical number.’’
There was plenty of hocus-pocus in Hoffman’s right arm. While most closers are power pitchers with fastballs lighting up radar guns with triple digits, Hoffman basically retired batters with a series of paper cuts. Everyone knew Hoffman’s tantalizing change up was coming and they still couldn’t hit his slow tumbler.
Doesn’t matter to Fingers, 69, how Hoffman went about his business. It’s that he was able to produce time and again, which warrants Fingers’ praise.
“It’s his longevity, where he was able to do it year after year after year,’’ Fingers said. “Some of these guys have great years and get 50 saves, then get 20 saves and then the next year and they are out of the game.
“Staying healthy as a closer, that’s the hardest part — keeping your arm in shape so you can go out there. And when you looked at Trevor, he did it for like what, 13, 14, 15 years?’’
Hoffman logged 18, the same number of holes Fingers will tour on Saturday and Sunday. He’s in field, which includes Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson (NFL), Grant Fuhr (NHL), and of course, Poway’s Faulk (NFL). Others playing include the Chargers’ Danny Woodhead, former Padre Garry Templeton and ex-Dodger Eric Gagne.
The best part is that the Junior Seau Foundation, along with Faulk’s foundation, are the event’s benefactors. The tournament is the JSF’s sole fundraiser and covers many of the community programs so close to the late Seau’s heart.
To help get those charities some dough, Fingers is in RSF this weekend. And he thinks Hoffman is a HOF by this summer.
“I really don’t know what the criteria is, who the heck does?’’ Fingers asked. “But I do believe that Trevor Hoffman is a Hall of Famer.’’
Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.
What: 18th Celebrity Championship hosted by Marshall Faulk.
Where: Morgan Run Club and Resort, 5690 Cancha de Golf, Rancho Santa Fe.
When: May 20-22.
Why: Benefitting the Junior Seau and Marshall Faulk Foundations.
Celebrity Championship is the lone annual fundraiser for JSF.
Tickets: Three-day general admission – $15; free admission with a Ralphs Rewards card or Military ID. Military Appreciation Day is Sunday, with free admission for military and their families.