Remembering The Forgotten: At 54, Tony Gwynn Lost His Battle with Salivary Gland Cancer

1 Posted by - December 7, 2017 - LATEST POSTS

June 16, 2014: At 54, Tony Gwynn lost his battle with salivary gland cancer.

Anthony Keith “Tony” Gwynn, Sr. (nicknamed Mr. Padre and Captain Video) was a professional baseball right fielder who played 20 seasons in MLB for the San Diego Padres. The left-handed hitting Gwynn won 8 batting titles in his career, tied for the second-most in MLB history. He is considered one of the best and most consistent hitters in baseball history. He was an 18-time All-Star, recognized for his skills both on offense and defense with seven Silver Slugger Awards and 5 Gold Glove Awards.

He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, his first year of eligibility.

Gwynn attended college at San Diego State University, where he played both college baseball and college basketball for the San Diego State Aztecs. He was selected by the Padres in the third round of the 1981 MLB Draft as the 58th overall pick. Gwynn played in the only two World Series appearances in San Diego’s franchise history. He had a .338 career batting average and never hit below .309 in any full season. Gwynn accumulated 3,141 career hits as a contact hitter.

Following his retirement, the Padres retired his jersey number 19 in 2004. He served as head baseball coach for the Aztecs.

⚾The New York Times called Gwynn “arguably the best pure hitter of his generation”.

⚾Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux, against whom Gwynn had more hits than any other pitcher, called him “the best pure hitter in the game. Easily.”

⚾Gwynn won 8 NL batting titles, tying him with Honus Wagner for the league record— second only to all-time Major League leader Ty Cobb, who won 12 AL titles.

⚾In seasons which he had enough plate appearances to qualify, he was in the top five in batting average in all but two seasons, finishing in the top 10 in 15 consecutive seasons.

⚾He recorded five of the 14 highest season averages since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941.

⚾Gwynn hit above .300 in an NL-record 19 consecutive seasons, exceeded only by Cobb (23).

⚾The only season Gwynn failed to bat .300 was his first, when he hit .289 in 54 games.

⚾He hit above .350 for five consecutive years (1993–1997)—averaging .368 in that span—while leading the league each season except 1993, when he hit .358 to finish second.

⚾The four consecutive NL batting titles he won starting in 1994 had not been matched since Hornsby won six straight beginning in 1920.

⚾Gwynn is the only major leaguer to win 4 batting titles each in two separate decades.

⚾6 times he led the NL in both batting average and hits.

⚾Gwynn’s .338 career average is the highest of any player who began his career after World War II, and ranks 17th all-time; he and Williams are the only ones of the top-17 to play after 1938.

⚾Playing in an era in which around 75 batters strike out 100 times in a season, Gwynn never struck out more than 40 times a year.

⚾He struck out only 434 times in his career, or just once every 21 at-bats.

⚾Only four players in MLB history had 300 steals and a career batting average of at least .338; Gwynn was the only one of the four to have played since 1928.

⚾Gwynn in 1999 was the 1st National League player to reach 3,000 hits since Lou Brock in August 1979. Seven American Leaguers reached the mark after Brock and before Gwynn; all but one played at least 400 games as a designated hitter. “If you want to do it in the National League, you have to play a position,” Gwynn said. “It’s been 20 years since anybody has been able to do it. That tells you how tough it is to do it in this league.”

⚾Gwynn was the 11th player to collect all 3,000 hits with one team. George Brett of the Kansas City Royals and Robin Yount of the Milwaukee Brewers were the last to achieve the milestone for one team in 1992.

⚾He played his entire career for San Diego, a rarity for his generation. “In this era it doesn’t happen. It takes a little bit of loyalty and luck. It also takes the organization wanting a player to stay with the club,” said Gwynn. Only 17 MLB players have played at least 20 seasons with one club.

⚾He is widely considered the greatest Padres player ever.

⚾His career paralleled that of Wade Boggs, who also debuted in the major leagues in 1982. Gwynn and Boggs were the premier contact hitters in an era dominated by home runs. They both won multiple batting titles—Gwynn’s eight to Boggs’s five—and each won four straight to join Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Carew as the only players to do so. Gwynn and Boggs each hit over .350 in four straight seasons, the only players to do so since 1931. They joined Brock and Carew as the only players whose careers ended after World War II who finished with 3,000 hits and fewer than 160 home runs.

⚾Gwynn, though, had a career slugging percentage of .459, higher than comparable contemporaries such as Boggs, Brock, Carew, and Rose. Among that group, he had more RBIs (1,138) than everyone but Rose.

⚾Gwynn prospered during the steroid era of baseball. While other players were transforming their physiques over a single offseason, Gwynn’s body grew pudgier and rounder. While no longer the base stealer or defensive player he was early in his career, he continued to excel as a hitter.

⚾In 2005, Sporting News ranked him No. 57 on the list of their 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and he was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

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1 Comment

  • Rhonda Dula December 10, 2017 - 2:32 pm Reply

    Tony Gwynn, was my trusted neighbor in San Diego, California for eight years, during his years playing professional baseball in San Diego…………

    My regards to the Gwynn family, friends and neighbors…….He was a trusted friend and neighbor. . . . .

    Respectfully, Dr. “D”

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