We grew up in San Diego and for a local there’s a lot to be proud of: from our attractions, to our beautiful location, to our diverse population, our city of over 1.3 million people tends to feel like a close knit little community of friends. One of our cities greatest friends died today, Mr. Padre Tony Gwynn died at the age of 54.
In his 20 seasons with the Padres Tony had an incredible career. He stepped up to the plate 10,232 times and struck out just 434 times, he had 8 National League Batting titles, 5 Golden Gloves, and played in the All Star Game 15 times. His batting average over the last 19 seasons was .300, second only to Ty Cobb. Without a doubt he was one of the greatest baseball players to run the bags. Greg Maddux once paid him a compliment when he said it was nearly impossible to assess the speed of a pitch, “No hitter can tell the difference in speed of different pitches, except that ****ing Tony Gwynn.”
It wasn’t his prowess at the plate that we remember looking back at our child hood. Tony was one of the nicest guys to ever play the game and he was damn loyal to his friends, he stuck with our city for 20 seasons despite earning much less than he could have. There are countless stories of his kindness to fans and I even remember a short interaction I had with him at a gas station when I told him how I had always loved watching him growing up, his sincere words of thanks were true to his character and even more endearing than his playing. I remember frantically looking for number 19 at every game we went to so I could try to ask for an autograph and wearing his number every time I was on a T-Ball team. A friend of mine who played for him at SDSU said talking to him about hitting, “Was like talking to god about religion.”
There has never been a more classy player on our fields in America’s Finest City nor one more beloved. He was our friend, our family and the brightest smile in the dugout. We’re going to miss you Mr. Padre, Oh Doctor are we going to miss you.