Six years ago, Tony Gwynn passed away (June 16, 2014), losing his battle with salivary gland cancer. He gained so much in the time he was here with us. His celebrated 20 year career requires the voiceover of James Earl Jones who declared “the one constant in all the years is baseball” in the film “Field of Dreams. The life of Tony Gwynn was short, yet so well lived, a life that represents that same constant through all his years. In his MLB service time, Tony Gwynn won 8 NL Batting Titles, 5 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Slugger Awards, 15 All-Star appearances, ultimately being inducted into the Hall of Fame (Class of 2007) with fellow legend Cal Ripken Jr. His baseball stats will be talked about 100 years from now. On the field, he was a superhero among mortals. He made a name for himself at Long Beach Polytechnic High School and later San Diego State University, played his entire career with the San Diego Padres for 20 years, then later came back to San Diego State University as Head Baseball Coach for 12 years. He left us at the young age of 54 with a zest for life. The loyalty for those he loved is unforgettable. The lives he touched can attest that Tony Gwynn’s message was constant. “Respect others, respect the game, do things right, & do it with class.” he said. Through his rise to stardom, he was apparently the same guy, Mr. Padre.
Among all his baseball milestones, records, and feats, his favorite moment at the plate was hitting a home run in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series at the Old Yankee Stadium and hearing Bob Sheppard announce his at bat on the intercom. Before his death, Tony Gwynn made it clear when asked. He wanted to be remembered as someone who played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. Yet, reporters, kids, and fans remember him by how important he made them feel, that their voice mattered. He was a Teacher.
Tony Gwynn’s last game was on October 07, 2001 at Petco Park. The Colorado Rockies smoked the San Diego Padres 14-5. As Tony Gwynn’s teammate on the San Diego Padres, Ricky Henderson hit his 3,000th career hit. In typical Tony Gwynn fashion, he did everything he could to avoid being a distraction to Ricky’s Moment. But, over 60,000 fans were there to say goodbye to their favorite son of San Diego, along with many other important people in Tony Gwynn’s storied career. Attending were his family and friends, including his brother Chris Gwynn and son Tony Gwynn Jr. who both played for the San Diego Padres as well. When you’re good, you tell people. When you’re great, people tell you.
Tony Gwynn’s memorial also took place here at Petco Park on June 26, 2014, the week after his passing. John Boggs, his agent and friend for 30 years, spoke about Tony Gwynn’s life among other dignitaries on hand. Balancing the mourning of his loss while celebrating his life, John Boggs pointed out four things about Tony Gwynn;
- Great laugh, contagious sense of humor.
- Kindness, always found time for others.
- Strong work ethic, his hitting approach changed the game forever.
- Humility, found happiness in the simpler things.
The lessons he shared live on in the hearts of the lives he touched. So, when you walk the halls of Petco Park, you may feel the Spirit of Mr. Padre, he is Baseball.