On June 16th, 2014, the Padres Organization and Major League Baseball lost one of its greatest and proudest members to an unfortunate battle with cancer
Ryan Fox (@Spider_Fox87)
He was both respected and beloved by all. He was both an innovator of his time and a superstar. He was known as Mr. Padre and Captain Video. He was Tony Gwynn. On June 16, 2014, the former San Diego Padre and MLB Hall of Famer passed away due to salivary gland cancer in Pomerado Hospital in Poway, California. He was only 54 years old.
Tony was born on May 9, 1960, in Los Angeles, California. Ironically enough, the young Tony’s first love was with basketball instead of baseball. When he attended San Diego State University in 1977, he was there to play basketball for the Aztecs. He was named to the Western Athletic Conference All-Conference Second Team as a point guard and set the school record in assists in a single game, a single season, and a career.
But at the same time, Tony was also playing outfield for the Aztecs’ baseball team. He played 3 years of baseball, being named to the All-American Team and Western Athletic Conference All-Team in each year. Tony is the only San Diego State athlete who has ever been named All-American in two different sports
In 1981, Tony was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 3rd round (58th overall) in the MLB Draft. However on the same day he was drafted by the Padres, Tony was selected in the 10th Round of the 1981 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers (then the San Diego Padres). Tony selected to go with baseball over basketball and had not looked back. He just played 2 seasons of minor league baseball in the Padres’ farm system before getting the call up on July 19, 1982. From then on, Mr. Padre made his mark in both Padre and MLB history.
Tony played with the Padres from 1982 all the way to 2001. Where most players during his time were focused on hitting the long bomb home runs (like a Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Conseco), Tony was focused on making contact and putting the ball in play. Even though he finished with 135 home runs in his career, Tony finished with 3,141 hits and a career average of .338.
Tony won several awards during his playing time. He won the NL Batting Champion 8 times (1984, 1987-89, 1994-97), the Silver Slugger Award 7 times (1984, 1986-87, 1989, 1994-95, 1997), and both the Roberto Clemente Award and Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1999, and was a 15 time NL All-Star (1984-1987, 1989-99). His best season came during the 1997 season where he hit career highs in home runs (17), RBIs (119), hits (220) and finished 6th in MVP voting. During his tenure, Tony made the postseason three times (1984, 1996, 1998), including two World Series appearances (1984 & 1998).
But what made Tony different from other hitters of his era wasn’t what he did on the diamond but what he did off it. While most players were using other means of enhancing their performance, Tony took a different approach. He started to watch game film of pitchers he was about to face. He studied how each pitcher threw a pitch, their mannerisms, and how they were able to telegraph what they were about to throw.
After he retired from baseball in 2002, Tony was inducted into the San Diego Padres Hall of Fame and then had his #19 jersey retired in 2004, becoming the 5th Padre (at the time) to have his jersey retired. He was then inducted into Cooperstown 2007 after getting 97.6% of the votes, becoming the 11th Padres player to be inducted and the 2nd Padre player to wear the insignia on his bust. Also in 2007, the Padres organization built a statue in honor of Tony in front of Petco Park’s outfield.
Tony went to go on to coach his alma mater’s baseball team from 2002 up until his death. They had 2 NCCA Regionals in 2010 and in 2013, but were eliminated in the first round each time. The stadium of which he coached his baseball team was renamed after him in 1997.
For the younger generation, they probably are not familiar with Tony or his accomplishments & accolades. They would think that the nickname “Mr. Padre” is the name of the San Diego Padres’ mascot. But to those who watched him play, some might say he was the greatest hitter in baseball behind the likes of Ty Cobb, Pete Rose, and Ted Williams. He had passion and love for the game, always trying to become both a better player and a better teammate.
Tony is survived by his wife Alicia Gwynn, his daughter, R&B artist Anisha Nicole, and his son and current MLB outfielder, Tony Gwynn, Jr. Rest in peace Mr. Padre, we will never forget you.
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