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Thread: Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn dead at 54

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    Elite Member Seth82's Avatar
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    Default Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn dead at 54


    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/17/sports/baseball/tony-gwynn-8-time-national-league-batting-champion-is-dead-at-54.html


    Tony Gwynn, 8-Time National League Batting Champion, Is Dead at 54




    Tony Gwynn, who won a record eight National League batting championships, amassed 3,141 hits and gained acclaim as one of baseball’s most passionate students of the art of hitting, died on Monday in Poway, Calif. He was 54.

    His death was announced by Major League Baseball.

    Gwynn had undergone surgery for cancer of the mouth and salivary glands in recent years and had been on medical leave since spring as the baseball coach at San Diego State University, his alma mater. He attributed the cancer to having dipped tobacco throughout his career.

    Playing all 20 of his major league seasons with the often lackluster San Diego Padres, in one of baseball’s lesser media markets, and usually shunning home run swings in favor of well-struck hits, Gwynn wasn’t one of baseball’s more charismatic figures. And his pudgy 5-foot-11, 215-pound frame (give or take a few pounds) did not evoke streamlined athleticism.

    He simply possessed a brilliant consistency with his left-handed batting stroke, compiling a career batting average of .338. He was also a Gold Glove-winning outfielder and an outstanding base stealer as well before knee injuries took their toll.

    Gwynn, a 15-time All-Star, entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 after garnering 97.6 percent of sportswriters’ votes in his first year of eligibility. Some 75,000 fans turned out at Cooperstown when he was inducted along with Cal Ripken Jr., who played all 21 of his seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, most of them at shortstop, on the way to breaking Lou Gehrig’s streak of consecutive games played.

    Gwynn made his debut with the Padres in July 1982. Two years later he captured his first batting championship, hitting .351. He also stole 33 bases and struck out only 23 times in 606 at-bats that year, propelling the Padres to the first pennant in their history, though they lost to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

    Deacon Jones, the Padres’ hitting coach that season, marveled at Gwynn’s bat control. “He’ll get some funky hits and then he’ll hit a line drive that you could hang three weeks’ wash on,” Jones told The New York Times. “There isn’t a pitcher in the league who wants Tony Gwynn up with a runner on third base. You know he’ll make contact.”

    Gwynn was hitting .394 in the summer of 1994, with a chance to become baseball’s first .400 hitter since Ted Williams batted .406 for the 1941 Boston Red Sox, when a players strike ended the season on Aug. 12. He settled for achieving the N.L.’s highest batting average since Bill Terry hit .401 for the New York Giants in 1930.

    Gwynn’s obsession with the elements of a baseball swing began when he played for San Diego State and read Williams’s 1971 book, “The Science of Hitting.”

    Williams invited Gwynn to talk hitting at his museum in Florida after the 1994 season and suggested he drive the ball more, but Gwynn was reluctant to tamper with his approach.

    Gwynn took endless hours of extra batting practice and employed extensive video before that became common in baseball. In his second season he had his wife, Alicia, tape his at-bats off television on road trips in hopes of correcting a slump.

    Through the years his taping grew more sophisticated, and he edited the tapes into segments showing good and bad at-bats.

    “If there are bad at-bats on the tapes, I just click them out,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1995. “You don’t want to watch yourself looking like an idiot, waving at some curveball.”

    Gwynn hit .321 in 1998, when the Padres won their second pennant, and .500 in the World Series, with a home run at Yankee Stadium. But the Padres were swept by the Yankees in four games.

    He marked the 64th birthday of his mother, Vendella, with his 3,000th hit, against the Expos in Montreal on Aug. 6, 1999. After his teammates and even the first-base umpire, Kerwin Danley, his former teammate at San Diego State, hugged him, his mother came onto the field and embraced him. He had celebrated her 58th birthday with his 2,000th hit.

    Gwynn credited his mother and his father, Charles, a warehouse worker who also coached Little League baseball, with forging his work ethic.

    “I think my parents gave it to me,” he was quoted by George Will in “Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball” (1990), recalling how his mother approached her job as a postal worker.

    “She wanted to be prepared,” he said. “She’d give me the test she had to take and I’d read off the streets and she’d tell me where they connect or whatever. I think it rubbed off.”

    Anthony Keith Gwynn was born on May 9, 1960, in Los Angeles. His family moved to Long Beach when he was 9. He was recruited by San Diego State as a basketball point guard and became an outstanding playmaker there, but he was also an all-American outfielder and was selected by the Padres in the third round of the 1981 baseball draft.

    Gwynn shared the record of eight N.L. batting championships with Honus Wagner, a total exceeded only by Ty Cobb’s 12 American League titles. He won five Gold Glove awards, playing mostly in right field, and stole 319 bases. But he hit only 135 home runs, and the most he ever hit in a season was just 17, in 1997. He drove in 119 runs that season, the only time he exceeded the 100-R.B.I. mark.

    After hitting .324 in 2001, his final season, he became the San Diego State baseball coach. He was also a game and studio analyst for ESPN.

    In addition to his wife, Gwynn’s survivors include his son, Tony Jr., an outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies, his fourth major league team; a daughter, Anisha Nicole Gwynn, a rhythm-and-blues singer; his brother Chris, also an outfielder and his teammate in the last of Chris’s 10 major league seasons; and his brother Charles, a teacher.

    Drawing on Gwynn’s jersey number, the Padres list the address of their ball field, Petco Park, as 19 Tony Gwynn Drive. A bronze statue depicting Gwynn swinging was unveiled at the park in 2007. Its plaque reads, “Tony Gwynn, Mr. Padre.”

    But Gwynn’s love for the low-key atmosphere in San Diego and his devotion to the Padres may have been costly. He shunned free agency in favor of multiyear contracts, and in April 1997, after having won seven batting championships, he signed a three-year contract extension for $12.6 million. In its final season, 104 players earned more than his $4.3 million salary, according to The Times.

    But he told The Times during his final season: “Twenty years in one place, one city. It looks good.”

    Correction: June 16, 2014

    An earlier version of this obituary misstated the year Gwynn entered the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was 2007, not 1997.
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    Elite Member Honeythorn's Avatar
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    This hurts. Tony was one of THEE most humble, gracious and gentle human beings that I had the pleasure of meeting and watch play for 10 years at Qualcomm. One of the greatest players to ever grace right field. Godspeed "T".
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    Oh man, that sucks! Only 54.

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    Elite Member Lily Bleu's Avatar
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    He was a treasure. RIP, Mr Gwynn, sir
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    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    As someone who as lived in San Diego all their life, this is pretty devastating news. He'd beat the cancer and then it would come back.
    His death is all over the local news as a headline. San Diego has pretty much had crappy baseball teams over the years. the two times we went to
    the world series, Tony was on the team.

    He was the nicest athlete we'd ever met. His laugh was insane. Got this one year on hubs birthday after a Padres game.
    People would wait near where the players would go to their cars. My son went up to him and told him it was his dads bday and asked for an autograph.
    tony personalized it for him What a great guy.

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    Elite Member sluce's Avatar
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    So young, so sad. I hope some good will come of this though. I hate seeing so many young men chewing tobacco and stupidly believing it won't harm them.
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    Elite Member gas_chick's Avatar
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    RIP Tony. Way too early.
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    Elite Member SoCalMarie's Avatar
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    Born and raised in San Diego, this truly hurts my heart. He was such a kind, caring man - and an amazing ball player to boot.

    RIP Tony. I can speak for most, if not all of San Diego (and the US), when I say "Thank you" for your time and dedication to baseball, the numerous causes you've brought attention to/worked with throughout the years, and thank you for being just an all around great guy to everyone you encountered.

    They have been playing dedications to him all day on the radio (and TV). While listening to the radio today they played a tribute to him, with snippets of interviews and him commentating games - and tears started streaming down my face (and I'm not a crier, especially at work/in public). He was just.... such an awesome, friendly human being.
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    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SoCalMarie View Post
    Born and raised in San Diego, this truly hurts my heart. He was such a kind, caring man - and an amazing ball player to boot.

    RIP Tony. I can speak for most, if not all of San Diego (and the US), when I say "Thank you" for your time and dedication to baseball, the numerous causes you've brought attention to/worked with throughout the years, and thank you for being just an all around great guy to everyone you encountered.

    They have been playing dedications to him all day on the radio (and TV). While listening to the radio today they played a tribute to him, with snippets of interviews and him commentating games - and tears started streaming down my face (and I'm not a crier, especially at work/in public). He was just.... such an awesome, friendly human being.
    Even though we all knew how special he was, it still is strange to see MLBtv and ESPN doing tributes. I mean, he was like our little secret.
    they showed a clip of him at SDSU Tony Gwynn Stadium on the 11th. He had gone out to see the team he coached. he walked really slow, and even though he tried to cover it up, his face was so swollen.
    They also said San Diego is better for having Tony Gwynn.
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    Elite Member SoCalMarie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msdeb View Post
    Even though we all knew how special he was, it still is strange to see MLBtv and ESPN doing tributes. I mean, he was like our little secret.
    they showed a clip of him at SDSU Tony Gwynn Stadium on the 11th. He had gone out to see the team he coached. he walked really slow, and even though he tried to cover it up, his face was so swollen.
    They also said San Diego is better for having Tony Gwynn.
    Totally. I totally feel like he was "ours" (San Diego's) - in the family-sense of the word, it feels like we lost a family member. He has been a part of San Diego since the 80's. Not just in baseball, but numerous charities events, on TV, giving his sport opinions and commentating news casts and games, on commercials... etc.
    I'm also the same age as Tony Jr. so I was used to seeing Tony Sr. at high school sports games and such to watch his son play.

    I was unaware he had taken medical leave from SDSU (in late March) because of the cancer returning, so when heard the news today, my mouth dropped. I couldn't believe it.

    I don't think the Padres have been the same since he left. I love 'em, and there are some great players that have come through and that are still there - but Tony was Mr. Padre. Hands down.

    My favorite games to watch were when Tony Sr. was commentating, and Tony Jr. was playing. He was a proud papa and would make some cool and funny comments about his son when he was at bat or when he made a good or bad play - Tony Sr. would always bust his balls a little in a father-son/light hearted way...
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    Native and lifelong San Diegan here. Huge loss for our city today. Crazy that many of my 18-year old high school students are so saddened by the death of someone I saw play in the World Series 30 years ago, when I was in 18-years old and just out of high school. True hometown hero. RIP Mr. Padre.
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    Elite Member *DIVA!'s Avatar
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    I really likes Tony Gwynn.. Outstanding all around guy!! RIP!!

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    R.I.P., Tony. That is just way too young.

    I think everyone who loves baseball knew what a great hitter he was, but I'm not sure most people outside of S.D. knew what a great person he was. I really respect that he chose to stay there and not chase the even bigger bucks that he could undoubtedly have gotten elsewhere. Sounds like he had a good life, and left a lot of love and respect behind.
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    I grew up in San Diego and fondly remember Tony Gywnn and how awesome he was. RIP...
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