Tony Gwynn passes; San Diego legend will never be forgotten
The greatest San Diego sports figure ever, one of the last hall-of-famers to play his entire career with one team, a Powegian for 30+ years, the well-respected coach of the Aztecs’ revived program, Tony Gwynn has died.
Only 54 when cancer took him early this morning at Pomerado Hospital in Poway, in the company of his family, Gwynn was renowned not just for the 3,141 hits of his 20-year career, or the 18th best career batting average of .338 with its accompanying 8 National League batting titles; but for being a humble, approachable, likable local hero. He was our hall of famer, our San Diego Padre. I’ve lived in and around Poway for the same 30 years as Tony and I’ve seen and spoken with him several times. I’d see him on the checkout line at a local sports store, and he might say hi to me, as I would to him. I was just another shopper, but he was a friendly kid. And he was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime superstar genius of baseball.
He’ll always be connected and remembered with the two (and so far, only two) Padre World Series trips that bracketed his fabulous professional career. A left-handed, veritable surgeon with the bat, “Mr. 5.5” (referring to the hole in the infield between the shortstop and third baseman, numbers 5 and 6 on your scorecard) where so many of his hits went, had just inked a contract extension to continue his 12-year coaching of the school he had played for in both college baseball and basketball.
He had been diagnosed with cancer on the right side of his face in 2010. Two surgeries followed to remove the tumor and repair a facial nerve. The latest cancer has had Tony on a medical leave from San Diego State for the past few months.
With all of his sports accomplishments, and they are many: first year induction into the Hall of Fame in 2007, number 19 retired by the Padres upon his retirement in 2004, 15 All-Star teams, a 19-year run of .300+ seasons; he will be remembered as a gracious, classy player and teacher. He will be remembered as a winner. And we have all lost a little bit today, with his passing. Thank you, Tony.