Anthony Keith Gwynn walked to the plate at old Olympic Stadium in French-speaking Montreal on August 6, 1999. Just as he first had at San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium 17 years prior.
On that summer day in 1982, as the Padres faced the Phillies, the 22-year-old rookie just hoped to make contact. Hitting fifth in the lineup, between Sixto Lezcano and Terry Kennedy, Gwynn had just been promoted from Triple-A Hawaii to play centerfield after hitting .328 with 46 RBIs, and producing a line of 328/.358/.443.
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In the third, Gwynn lined out to shortstop Ivan de Jesus.
In the sixth, the Phillies Sid Monge struck out the centerfielder.
In the seventh, with Monge still on the mound, Gwynn laced a double to center, which prompted Phillies’ first baseman Pete Rose to prophetically comment at the time, “Congratulations. Don’t catch me all in one night.”
In the bottom of the ninth, Gwynn would another single to center, finishing the night 2-for-4, with one RBI, and one run scored, in 7-6 loss to Philadelphia.
Years and 10,000 at-bats later, Gwynn was headed to St Louis for a four-game series. His career hit total stood at 2,994.
In the first game, Gwynn singled for hit No. 2995 off of St Louis’ Ricky Bottalico. Two days later, he hit No. 2996, another single, which was given up by St Louis’ Kent Merker. For hit No. 2997, Gwynn went deep with a home run, courtesy of Merker once again. Hit No. 2998, was a double given up by the Cardinals’ Mike Mohler in the ninth inning. In the final game of the series, Gwynn smacked hit No. 2999, a single off of the Cardinals’ Manny Aybar, which came the first inning.
The goal was still the same as it had been at Long Beach’s Polytechnic High School, the minors and in the majors. Whether it was 1980 or 1999 — get a good pitch to hit, make contact, get on base, manufacture some runs, help the team win.
From that night in 1982, fast forward 17 years and 2,999 hits later to “La métropole,” French for “The Metropolis,” a long way from the diamonds at San Diego State University.
That night, on August 6, with the Padres now in Canada, batting in his familiar number two spot, Gwynn smacked hit No. 3000, off the Expos’ Dan Smith, which came in the first inning, ending any suspense. Fittingly, the right fielder laced a single, between center and right field, with Jerry Coleman calling the historic shot.
Gwynn would finish his career, all with the Padres, with 3,141 hits before retiring in 2001, ranking 17th overall in Major League Baseball at the time.
Tony Gwynn struck out a mere 434 times 10,232 plate appearances. From 1990-2001 he struck out looking a minuscule 50 times. He was a 15-time All-Star, had five 200-hit seasons, was a five-time Gold Glove winner, a seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner and an eight-time NL Batting Champion. He led the NL in hits seven times, as well as leading the NL in singles seven times.
He was elected into baseball’s Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2007, collecting 97.6% of the vote (the seventh highest percentage in Hall of Fame voting history).
The man deservedly called “Mr Padre” had his #19 retired in 2004.
1982 No. 1 Double Sid Monge
1985 No. 500 Single Craig McMurtry
1988 No. 1,000 Single Nolan Ryan
1988 No. 1,135* Single Jim Acker
1990 No. 1,500 Single Steve Frey
1993 No. 2,000 Single Bruce Ruffin
1996 No. 2,500 Single Hector Carrasco
1999 No. 3,000 Single Dan Smith
2001 No. 3,141 Double Gabe White
*set new San Diego Padres Team record