Tony Gwynn recently left SDSU temporarily while he recovers. Mandatory Credit: ccsabathia52.com.
According to a news report last week by Channel 10 News in San Diego, San Diego State head baseball coach, Hall of Famer, and San Diego Padres’ icon Tony Gwynn has taken a leave of absence from coaching the Aztec’s this season for undisclosed health issues. Since 2010, Gwynn’s had multiple surgeries for cancer to his right cheek and was a subject of an ESPN story after his first operation about the dangers of chewing tobacco and the struggles post-operation.
"In a statement by Gwynn, he’s on the mend and looking forward to getting back to the team.”"
Outside of the city of San Diego, Tony Gwynn is a Hall of Fame player who won 8 National League titles, collected 3,141 hits, while amassing a career a .338 batting average. To San Diegan’s and Padres’ fans, Gwynn is “Mr. Padre.” For an entire generation of Padre fans, number 19 meant baseball in San Diego from 1982-2001. He led the Padres to their first World Series in 1984 and again in 1998 only to lose both series to the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees.
However, his home run off the right field facade at old Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of the 1998 was memorable because it was vintage Gwynn. Despite getting swept by the Yankees, the World Series gave baseball, outside the small market of San Diego, a chance to witness, arguably, the greatest hitter since Ted Williams.
Having stayed with the Padres after the fire sale in 1993, Gwynn could have left San Diego for a larger market, but he chose to stay with the Padres and fans have never forgotten that loyalty to the team. The 5.5 hole between third base and shortstop became synonymous with Gwynn’s style of hitting and is repeatedly referenced today.
Gwynn’s statue lies beyond the centerfield wall at Petco Park, but his love and commitment to baseball continues to resonate with Padres’ fans. It’s still hard to look at right field and see someone else’s number making incredible catches to rob a home run. When looking at home plate, it is difficult to glance at the 5.5 hole and not think of Gwynn slapping his familiar single between third base and short.