Loyal Padres–Tony Gwynn and Peter Seidler

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Both Tony Gwynn and Peter Seidler made sacrifices to be part of the San Diego Padres. Gwynn, one of the best (if not the best) pure hitters in the game, and Seidler (a member of the family that brought the Los Angeles Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles) could have made more money and had more success in different venues.

But both chose the franchise that has never won a World Series championship. In fact, the Padres haven’t appeared in the series since 1994 and 1998.

After playing baseball and basketball at San Diego State, Gwynn was drafted by the Padres 58th in 1981. “Trader Jack” McKeon had wanted to take him first but was overruled. In Triple-A Hawaii, Gwynn batted .328 in 93 games, earning him a call-up on July 19, 1982.

In Gwynn’s first full season (1984), the Padres won the National League West with his .351 batting average, 33 stolen bases, and 71 RBIs. But San Diego lost the franchise’s first World Series to the Detroit Tigers. In 27 games in the postseason, Gwynn batted .308 with 33 hits and 11 RBIs.

Early in his career, Gwynn started using video to record each at-bat. This helped him concentrate on seeing the ball and reacting, as well as letting the ball come to him.

In 1993, Jim Murray of “The Los Angeles Times” marveled at his deceptive appearance at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds. He fought his weight throughout his career but still stole a surprising number of bases.

The next year, the player’s strike made it impossible for Gwynn to reach Ted Williams’s top batting average of .400 in 1941. Gwynn was hitting .394 when the games ended, and his batting average was climbing. He hit .423 in the second half of that year and .475 in 10 games in August. In his career, Gwynn won eight batting titles. Williams recognized his talent, and the two became friends.

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Gwynn spent his entire career in San Diego and said, “I’m proud as heck to be a San Diego Padre. I played for one team; I played for one town”  when he was inducted into his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. https://www.eastvillagetimes.com/one-team-one-town-one-of-a-kind-tony-gwynn/

In 2014, cancer ended Tony Gwynn’s life at the age of 54. He’d tried to break his habit of chewing tobacco, but that habit contributed to cancer of the salivary gland.

In 2007, a 9′-5 “statue was raised. The front of the statue reads “Tony Gwynn, Mr. Padre,” and on the back, his father’s advice, “If you work hard, good things happen,” is etched.

In 2017, his home city of Poway erected a bronze statue in his name. Residents still marvel at his down-to-earth, friendly presence. Tony Gwynn never acted like a big-time ball player, and residents recall his friendly greetings.

Tony Gwynn Jr. also played in the major leagues and now works as an announcer. During the second game against the San Francisco Giants, he shared a story about Peter Seidler urging his mother Alica to come back to Petco Park, a place she’d avoided since the loss of her husband.

On the surface, Tony Gwynn and Peter Seidler have very little in common beyond their connections to the Padres. Those connections may be different—Gwynn as a player, Seidler as an owner—but both shared their loyalty to the Padres.

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Gwynn could have made a lot more money as a player for one of the big spenders in baseball. Seidler could have continued to root for the team his family brought to Los Angeles: the Dodgers.

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As a third-generation member of the famous O’Malley family of Los Angeles Dodger fame, buying a team like the Padres seems a strange choice for Peter Seidler. But he put his heart and his wallet into the franchise. Seidler founded Equity Partners, which had 1.1 billion in assets in 2018, which grew to 8 billion in assets in 2020 and 3.5 billion last year.

He also founded the “Tuesday Group,” which was devoted to helping the homeless. Siedler didn’t just provide monetary support; he visited homeless men and women.

In 2012, he bought the Padres for $800 million. Since then, the team’s value has grown to $1.87 billion. The Padres had never been big spenders, but in 2023, the team’s payroll hit $249 million, third in MLB behind the New York Yankees and Mets.

Despite the 2023 payroll, the Padres teased rather than succeeded. This year, the team ranks in the middle of the pack at $157 million. Peter Seidler will never get the opportunity to see his team play up to its promise.

Seidler survived two bouts of non-Hodgkin lymphoma but, in September, had medical problems that kept him away from the ballpark. His life ended at the age of 63 on November 14 last year. He was granted a few more years than Gwynn (54), but both left us way too soon.

Outside of Petco Park, fans laid out flowers in front of a portrait of Seidler. It was much the same when the news about Gwynn reached Padres fans.

There will never be another Tony Gwynn or Peter Seidler. Those of us who experienced their loyalty to the San Diego Padres will never forget them.

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