The baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died today at age 54. He had been the head coach for the San Diego State Aztecs since 2002 and recently had been offered a one-year extension from the team. The Hall of Famer had been battling cancer for some time before his death.
In recent years, Gwynn had undergone numerous treatments in order to battle cheek cancer, which had first manifested itself as a malignant growth inside his right cheek, for four years. The cancer was caused by his use of chewing tobacco during his playing days with the San Diego Padres. Gwynn spent all 20 seasons of his Major League Baseball career with the Padres and is often called “Mr. Padre” because of his long and loving relationship with the team and city of San Diego.
During his career Tony was a recurrent All-Star, an eight-time National League batting champion, first-ballot Hall of Famer and a wholly acknowledged gentleman of the game of baseball. Gwynn was one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball. His batting average was legendary at .338 during his entire 20-year career. Back in 1994 when he hit for .394 he was on the brink of being the first player in over 50 years to hit for .400, but the season was but short because of a strike. He ranked 19th all time in hits with 3,141. Gwynn was not just an offensive juggernaut though. He accumulated five gold gloves to go with his 15 All-Star appearances. The Padres were successful in reaching the playoffs only three times in his career and he was part of National League Pennant winning teams in 1998 and 1984.
On ESPN they mentioned how he was one of the last great pure hitters who could spray the ball all over the field. It was said he was virtually impossible to defend against because he could hit the ball anywhere on the field unlike some power hitters today that can only really hit the ball to one side of the ballpark.
Before the Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died at age 54, he had led the San Diego State Aztecs to a 321-342 record in his twelve years coaching at the school, with three appearances in the NCAA Baseball Tournament. All of those came since 2007, but unfortunately his teams never advanced past the regional round.
San Diego the city loved him so much that they had created a beer in his honor. AleSmith Brewing Company worked directly with the Hall of Famer to create the secret recipe for its new Dan Diego Pale Ale 394. The name is in reference to Gywnn’s .394 batting average during his 1994 season. It was the highest single-season batting average in Major League Baseball since George Brett of the Kansas City Royals hit for .390 14 seasons earlier in 1980. The beer was released last June during Padres Beerfest and was described by AleSmith’s as a typical pale ale with a bit of a piney, hopping and citrusy aroma and a light bitterness for a taste. The beer contained six percent alcohol.
In recent months, the battle for his life had gotten a lot tougher. He was reported to have experiment with some new treatments that had weakened his energy and damaged his immune system. Tony Gwynn Jr. is the son of the Hall of Famer and they recently had a beautiful piece written about them on Comcast Sports Net Philly describing the relationship the two have had over the years. It was said that when Tony Jr. was younger, he would accompany his dad to work at Jack Murphy Stadium once he was out of school every single day. They would speak about baseball on the journey to and from the ballpark. Tony Jr. said the most memorable advice his father had ever given him was to take care of his family. Baseball may be his job, but it was how he took care of his family that was the judgment of a man. The Gwynn family, San Diego and all of the baseball community will surely miss the Hall of Famer now that he has died at the age of 54.
By B. Taylor Rash