Tony Gwynn, who won eight National League batting titles with the San Diego Padres and whose outgoing personality made him a great ambassador for the game, has passed away at the age of 54.
He finally succumbed to a years-long battle with cancer.
Gwynn’s entire baseball career was associated with San Diego: He attended San Diego State (on a basketball scholarship, interestingly), was drafted by the Padres and played his entire career with the team, then returned to San Diego State and Tony Gwynn Stadium as a coach. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007.
He was also loved; Gwynn’s ever-present smile and easygoing manner made him a fan favorite. The Padres went through some lean times — Gwynn’s World Series appearances came 12 seasons apart — and throughout it all Gwynn was the face of the franchise. From the San Diego Union-Tribune:
As much for his 3,141 career hits and final batting average of .338 – the highest of any player who’s retired since 1939 – Gwynn further endeared himself to San Diegans with his jovial nature, the inexplicable twang in his high-pitched voice and those quick bursts of child-like laughter.
“Think about the number of people Tony’s touched, the generations he touched in San Diego for 30 years,” said Gwynn’s longtime Padres teammate, closer Trevor Hoffman. “Say you were an eighth-grader in 1980. You’re watching him on the hardcourt at San Diego State.
“Now he’s drafted by your hometown team. The eight-year old is now a 12-year-old, and that’s just the start of a 20-year career. Or you’re the 50-year-old who followed him throughout his career in the same city.”
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