As we approach the end of another baseball season, Padres fans no doubt still miss the spirit of the great Tony Gwynn. He was one of the best athletes to play the game – certainly for the SD Padres.
Gwynn was a fixture in the lineup for 20 years and continued to be a strong supporter of the team until his death in June 2014. His exploits on home plate were legendary, winning eight batting titles in 20 years, but he also showed model character off the field. According to Baseball Reference, Gwynn never hit below .309 in any season, and he had a career batting average of .338. That certainly puts him in any conversation about the greatest hitters of all time.
Gwynn was also known for his uncanny athleticism as an outfielder. He won five gold glove awards to go with his seven silver slugger awards. In 15 of his 20 seasons, he was an All Star, so it’s no surprise that he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2007. The Padres have never won a world series, but Gwynn helped them get to two, and he played well in both. The Padres had their best years to date with Gwynn patrolling the outfield and ruling from the plate. His jersey and number hang in the rafters of Petco Park as a reminder, and perhaps as a hope that in baseball heaven, Gwynn is looking down on the team and the fans with his legendary smile.
Gwynn was a major contributor to the success of both the Padres and the city of San Diego. Southern California was a big part of his life. He moved to San Diego after his senior year of high school in Los Angeles, and he said he never considered living anywhere else. In fact, Gwynn loved San Diego so much that he turned down more money to play in larger markets.
Like most great athletes, Tony Gwynn could play any sport. He started out as a basketball player, signing a hoops scholarship with San Diego State. As a sophomore, he started playing baseball, too, and was a star at both. He still holds the single-game record for assists in a game at 18.
Despite his success in basketball, baseball was Gwynn’s forte, as well as an opportunity to play professional sports. It seemed fitting, too, that after 20 years playing with the Padres, Gwynn would become the baseball coach at San Diego State, returning to where it all began.
Gwynn was known for his personality and his humor. He did not fit the mold of a traditional great athlete, and was at times criticized for his weight. He laughingly said his body was “by Betty Crocker,” noting that the problem was the perception of what an athlete should look like. From his unmatched talents in baseball to his model behavior and sense of humor, Tony Gwynn will forever be a star in the San Diego Padres’ legacy.