When I was eight years old, there was no chance I could have told you what kind of laundry detergent my mother used, or what brand of shoes I had, or really any of the brand names of many of the products in my childhood home every day. The one thing I could tell you even back then, is that the best deal on a car, was from El Cajon Ford.
No, this is not a shameless plug for a local dealership, I knew that for one reason. Because Tony Gwynn, the man in the poster above my bed for my waking life, told me so. “Nobody beats El Cajon Ford” was a constant in the stable of commercials for the Padres’ radio broadcasts as voiced by Gwynn.
Such was the impact of Tony Gwynn throughout my childhood. And to me, memories like that are the true measure of how much Gwynn meant to his hometown fans.
For instance, as wonderful a memory as Gwynn’s home run in the ’98 World Series off David Wells was, anyone that watched the Fall Classic shares in that single moment of glory. But what made Tony so special was the day in, day out, season in, season out comfort we as Padres’ fans could take in the fact Gwynn was there, in the line-up, in right field, and trying to move some Fords.
While the line-up and right field portion of that connection may have been severed in 2001, Gwynn’s presence remained in San Diego, on our televisions and radios, talking baseball like few could, in the dugout, up on the mesa at SDSU and, if I’m not mistaken, still selling some Fords.
Getting used to the permanence of that will all come as a part of the grieving process for the Padres’ faithful. But, just like Jerry Coleman, Tony Gwynn has left a bond with those he knew and those he played in front of that only all-time great people can leave.
So whether it’s a memory of a smile and a handshake, a ball tossed your way, a picture-perfect swing witnessed in person at Jack Murphy, or one of the thousands of other unique memories every single person reading this has of Tony Gwynn, cherish that connection and count yourself lucky to have a memory of the greatness that was Mr. Padre. A human being that truly NOBODY could beat.