Tony Gwynn would have been 56 years old this past Monday if he was still alive. He passed away on June 16, 2014 due to salivary gland cancer. He had been battling it since 2009. Gwynn was not only well-respected as a player, but also as a person. He was also nicknamed “Mr. Padre.”
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“People in San Diego are never going to see anybody like that again,” John Moores, the Padres’ former majority owner from 1995-2012. “It’s impossible. It will never happen. Not in 10 lifetimes. He was a special player, but it’s more than that. It was the dedication. He just did what he wanted to do. That was the way he lived. Whether right or wrong he did it on his own terms. He wasn’t interested in the money. He wanted to stay in San Diego. He wanted to live a certain way and he did.” MLB.com
Drafted in the third round (58th overall) out of San Diego State by the Padres, Gwynn made his major league debut in 1982. Two years later, he made his first All-Star appearance, won his first batting title (.351 average) and Silver Slugger award. The Padres made it to the World Series that season, losing to the Detroit Tigers in five games. They did not make it back to the World Series until 1998, losing to the New York Yankees in a four game sweep.
For his career, Gwynn was a 15-time All-Star, eight-time batting champion, five-time Gold Glove winner and a seven-time Silver Slugger winner. In 20 seasons (all with the Padres), he batted .338 (tied for 18th all-time) with 135 home runs and 1,138 RBIs. Hi 3,141 career hits are 19th all-time. He was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2007.
“I thought I was going to get penalized,” Gwynn after being elected into the Hall of Fame. “I didn’t win any [World Series] championships. I didn’t hit a whole lot of home runs. I didn’t drive in a whole lot of people. To be one of those lucky ones to get in is a blessing.” MLB.com
During the strike-shortened 1994 season, Gwynn batted a career high .394, which was the highest batting average since Tony Williams batted .406 in 1941.
After his playing career, he was the head coach for the San Diego State University baseball team for 12 seasons. He had a career record of 363-363. He was also was a broadcaster and analyst for ESPN, TBS, Yahoo and Fox Sports San Diego.
The Padres built a statue of Gwynn in 2007 at Petco Park, which is on 19 Tony Gwynn Drive.
Gwynn was married to Alicia Gwynn, had two children and four grandchildren.