Portrait of Tony Gwynn by artist Hal Betancourt. Photo: Mark Whelan

Tony Gwynn Top 40, Part Two

Tony Gwynn and Casey Kasem,  two icons who both made us smile and taught us lessons about life, sadly left us earlier this week.  As a tribute, yesterday we began counting down the top 40 statistics, facts, and memories about Tony Gwynn.  Today, we finish with the Top 19.

19. We’ve heard marvelous stories this week about Tony’s selflessness, his modesty, his preference for celebrating the accomplishments of others over his own.  It is certainly fitting, then, that Tony described his favorite memory in baseball not as playing in the World Series, nor as getting his 3,000th hit, but as being on the field with Ted Williams at the 1999 All-Star Game in Boston. The Splendid Splinter was in a wheelchair, but Tony helped him up and steadied him as Williams threw out the first pitch. Tony’s favorite memory in baseball was about someone other than himself.

18. Greg Maddux faced Tony Gwynn 107 times.  Maddux never struck him out.

17.  Tony Gwynn’s number 19 was retired by the Padres in 2004. It is one of six numbers retired by the Padres, but Gwynn is the only one who played his entire career for the team.

16. Randy Smith, former GM of the Padres, was the GM of the Tigers at the time Tony was approaching 3,000 hits.  Smith flew from Detroit to St. Louis in hopes of seeing Tony reach that magical number.  Gwynn had 2,998 coming into the game, and went 1-for-4.  After the game, when Smith went down to the clubhouse to say goodbye, Tony apologized for not getting number 3,000 that night.

15.  Gwynn hit .302 off of Nolan Ryan, .303 off of Tom Glavine, .321 off of Orel Hershiser, .321 off of Fernando Valenzuela, .444 off of John Smoltz, and .560 off of Hideo Nomo.

14.  Tony went 4-for-5 in the game where he got his 3,000th hit.  The Padres celebrated by winning the game 12-10.

13.  Gwynn’s last game in the majors was on October 7, 2001.  In that game, Tony’s teammate Rickey Henderson got his 3,000th hit.  Tony Gwynn pinch hit in the 9th inning of the 14-5 loss to the Rockies, and grounded out to shortstop.  I’ll bet he watched film of the AB after the game.

12. In Tony’s first full season, 1984, his .351 average led the Padres to their first-ever National League pennant.  In the five-game series against the Cubs, Gwynn hit .368.  His two-run double in Game 5 put the Padres ahead for good, and brought San Diego to its first World Series.

11. His .394 batting average in 1994 is the highest single-season average in the last 73 years.

10. Tony is 18th all-time in assists by a right fielder with 148.

9.  During the strike-shortened seasons of 1994 and 1995, Tony never went more than two games without recording at least one base hit.

8. Gwynn was drafted in two sports on the same day. On June 10, 1981, Gwynn was taken in the third round of the MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres and the 10th round of the NBA Draft by the San Diego Clippers.  He made the right choice.

7. This year, my friend Jan gave me a beautiful painting of Tony Gwynn by the artist Hal Betancourt.  There is a photo of that painting at the top of this page . Thank you, Jan.

6.  In 1995, Tony went 34 consecutive games without striking out a single time.

5. In conjunction with John Kruk, Cecil Fielder, and of course, Babe Ruth, Tony helped inspire my friend Frank’s theory that “fat guys make the best hitters.”

4. Tony’s Hall of Fame plaque says: “An artisan with a bat whose daily pursuit of excellence produced a .338 lifetime batting average, 3,141 hits and a National League record eight batting titles. Consistency was his hallmark, hitting above .300 in 19 of 20 major league seasons, including .394 in 1994. Renowned for ability to hit to all fields, frequently collecting opposite-field base hits between third base and shortstop. Struck out just once every 21 at bats. A 15-time all-star and five-time Gold Glove Award winner. Hit .371 in two World Series – 1984 and 1998.”

3. Tony Gwynn simply loved San Diego. He went to college here. He stayed a Padre for his entire career, at the cost of greater pay, greater statistics, and the greater possibility of winning a World Series.  He coached baseball at SDSU after he retired from playing baseball. His loyalty to the city was always appreciated and will never be forgotten.

2. He was voted into the Hall of Fame with the 7th highest percentage in history, 97.61%.   That puts him between Hank Aaron and Mike Schmidt on the list.  And ahead of such all-time greats as Willie Mays and Rickey Henderson.

1.  That smile and laugh.  Nobody seemed to enjoy life more than Tony Gwynn.  His ever-present smile and amazing high-pitched laugh brought delight to everyone lucky enough to be there with Tony.  What better tribute can you give to a man than to say that he loved people, and people loved him?

Casey Kasem ended each week of American Top 40 by reminding us to “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.”  That was the way Tony Gwynn lived his life.  And our lives are better because he chose to do so.

Tags: Casey Kasem San Diego Padres Tony Gwynn

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