Hall of Famer and San Diego Padres’ legend Tony Gwynn passed away this past weekend. It was an unfortunate early end to a player who was so good at what he did. A member of the elusive 3,000 hit club, Gwynn played 20 seasons all with the same team and was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
Gwynn was an illustrious hitter and won numerous awards for doing so. He won the NL batting title eight times, received a Silver Slugger seven times, and led the league in hits seven times. Part of the reason Tony Gwynn had so many hits was that he rarely struck out. He never had more than 40 strikeouts in a season and routinely averaged more than 20 at-bats between strikeouts. Gwynn had a .338 career batting average.
Gold Glove awards also filled Gwynn’s mantle as he won the award five times. Gwynn was more of a defensive threat early in his career as he gained weight in his later playing days. His hitting never took a backseat to anybody though. Tony Gwynn made 15 all-star teams including every outfield position and once as a designated hitter when the game was at the American League’s Jacobs Field.
Drafted by the Padres in the third round in 1981, the team reached the World Series in 1984. It wasn’t until 1998 that Gwynn and the Padres reached the World Series again. Unfortunately, they had the task of taking on the New York Yankees who were in the midst of their own dynasty years with the likes of Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams. Tony Gwynn may not have won a ring, but he did hit a home run in Game 1 of the Fall Classic that year at Yankee Stadium. That is the clip for today’s Throwback Thursday.
Tony Gwynn retired after the 2001 season. He coached at San Diego State University, his alma mater, for 12 seasons. He helped develop Stephen Strasburg, who was the school’s top prospect in its history and one of baseball’s all-time top prospects. Gwynn led the Aztecs to three Mountain West championships and three NCAA Tournament appearances.
Baseball lost a legend much too soon, but it had the honor of seeing someone so great at his craft and so humble at the same time. Players and coaches will talk just as much about what a great person Tony Gwynn was as how great of a baseball player he was. That is something worth more than 3,141 career hits. Gwynn was one of the best to play the game and one of the best to represent it.