A personal tribute to Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn on his birthday

Credit: Sporting News

Credit: AP Photo

A remembrance of the Padres’ Tony Gwynn on his birthday. 

I always jump at the opportunity to write about my favorite baseball player of all-time, Tony Gwynn. He made it cool to be a San Diegan and a Padres fan. Today would have been his 60th birthday.

Being born in 1991, I was just a kid through the dominant 90s years, but I think it made it that much more magical. I imitated his stance, whether it was in my backyard with a wiffleball bat or at the plate in a San Pasqual High School varsity game, donning 19 on my back. We had pictures of his swing in our batting cages, teaching us the proper way to swing and stay balanced at the plate.

Enough about me. This is about Tony Gwynn being the greatest Padre, and one of the greatest hitters of all-time. He needs no introduction to San Diegans and Padres fans, but let’s do it anyway.

15 All-Star selections, eight batting titles, seven Silver Sluggers, five Gold Gloves, and a first-ballot Hall of Fame induction in 2007 are just some of the accolades Gwynn piled up in his 20-year career, all with the Padres.

To put his eight batting titles in perspective, future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera is only halfway there with four and 2017 A.L. MVP Jose Altuve just barely won his third.

If you put Gwynn’s numbers through modern sabermetics, you won’t be disappointed. He had a career 132 OPS+, his 69.2 WAR is better than Ernie Banks, Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, Dave Winfield, Willie McCovey, and Jackie Robinson, just to name a few.  He had the microscopic career strikeout rate of Ty Cobb (4.2%) and his 132 wRC+ is better than Ken Griffey Jr. and Roberto Clemente.

One of the most underrated parts of his career is that he played on both franchise National League championship teams that went to the World Series, in 1984 and 1998. He hit .316 in the 1984 playoffs with three doubles and .298 in the 1998 run. Of course, one of the highlights of his entire career was launching a go-ahead home run clanging off of the upper deck in right field of historic Yankee Stadium in the 1998 Fall Classic.

Tony Gwynn was one of the best pure hitters in the history of the game, maybe the best since Ted Williams. He got plenty of comparisons to the Red Sox legend. However, he accomplished something that Williams did not, and that was joining the 3,000 hit club (although Williams would have easily gotten there if he had not been so brave as to serve in the military during World War II), which is pretty much an automatic ticket to Cooperstown. He did just that on August 6, 1999 in Montreal.

And who could forget the moment in the 1999 All-Star Game when Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn got together in a warm reunion of legendary hitters from two different generations?

We all still remember where we were the day Gwynn passed away on June 16, 2014. We were glued to the TV and watched, through misty eyes, highlights of his career all over sports networks. There is a giant hole in the Padres’ organization now that he is gone and it will never, ever be filled. He was gone way too soon, at age 54, due to complications from salivary gland cancer.

The rest of the baseball world recognizes him as we do, as one of the best to ever do it.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.

2 thoughts on “A personal tribute to Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn on his birthday

  1. He was a great player as well as a great human. I was on a behind the scenes tour on non-baseball related things. He came over, greeted everyone and signed some baseballs for us.

    He took the San Diego discount back when and always made the Padres worth watching. Often, when he was the only reason to watch them. He could have gone elsewhere and ended up making more money and likely winning a ring or two.

  2. Nick, wonderful tribute to Tony, while I only saw him since ’96 and finished his career as his legs gave out. He was such an amazing hitter and his laugh was so infectious ! To stay in SD and coach his beloved SDSU Aztecs until his timely death was special and he never turned down a fan appearance. Perhaps his greatest gift was his PSA about smokeless tobacco to which he succumbed . What a horrible habit so many big leaguers undertook and now banned in clubhouses of all MLB teams. Thank you !

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.