“Mr. Padre” Tony Gwynn Passes Away At 54
It was August 6, 1999, when Tony Gwynn made history.
The contact hitter, with the nickname “Mr. Padre”, stepped into the batter’s box for the 8,874th time. In his brilliant, hunched over stance, he awaited the pitch from Montreal Expos pitcher Dan Smith. The pitch, a changeup, broke below Gwynn’s knees. This was a pitch that most batters would chop for a groundball out. “Captain Video” was unlike most batters. In a smooth and swooping swing, he managed to slap the ball into right-center field for his 3,000th career hit. The team, pardon, the entire Padres bench jogged to first base for their congratulatory hugs and handshakes. The Montreal faithful also showed appreciation for the rightfielder, who was then in his 18th season.
It was also a special day for a second reason, a reason Gwynn found more important. It was the 64th birthday of his mother, Vendella.
On Monday, June 16, the game of baseball lost an icon. Tony Gwynn, outfielder and batting champion of the San Diego Padres, passed away due to salivary gland cancer. He was only 54. The type of cancer Gwynn unfortunately acquired was possibly caused by the use of chewing tobacco.
Renowned for his warm smile and ebullient chuckle, the Los Angeles native will be remembered by players and fans across the nation.
“This is an extraordinarily sad day,” said fellow Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. “Tony was a Hall of Fame ballplayer but more importantly he was a wonderful man. Tony always had a big smile on his face and was one of the warmest and most genuine people I have ever had the honor of knowing. Like all baseball fans I will miss him very much and my thoughts are with his family today.”
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig released a statement on Monday following the tragic announcement.
[quote]”Major League Baseball today mourns the tragic loss of Tony Gwynn,” Selig said. “The greatest Padre ever and one of the most accomplished hitters that our game has ever known, whose all-around excellence on the field was surpassed by his exuberant personality and genial disposition in life. For more than 30 years, Tony Gwynn was a source of universal goodwill in the National Pastime, and he will be deeply missed by the many people he touched.”[/quote]
Gwynn finished his 20 year career with a .338 batting average, tied for 18th on the all-time list. He also appeared in 15 all-star games, tied with Yogi Berra, Al Kaline, Ozzie Smith, and Brooks Robinson. In 2,440 career games, Gwynn had merely 34 multi-strikeout games.
“Remember these two things: play hard and have fun” Tony Gwynn famously said.