Dodger fans, take heart: Bob Welch held Tony Gwynn under a .300 lifetime batting average (actually .292). The only time Gwynn struck out three times in a game was a 1986 contest against the Dodgers. Welch was pitching. Somewhere in heaven, the old Padre is giving props to the old Dodger.
Gwynn died Monday at age 54.
Having battled an especially vicious form of cancer with the same tenacity that he fouled off unhittable pitches — before an opposite-field singles through the 5.5 hole — Gwynn passed away with eight National League batting titles. Also with baseball’s near-unanimous belief that “T” was the greatest pure hitter of the last half of the 20th Century.
Gwynn’s son, Tony Jr., a Dodger from 2011-13, told us in April that his father’s health had been improving. (Gwynn’s brother, Chris, also played for the Dodgers from 1987-91 and from 1994-95.) According to a recent report, Gwynn took a turn for the worse. From CSNPhilly.com:
In recent months, the battle has gotten tougher. Gwynn has tried some new treatments that have sapped his energy and weakened his immune system. In March, he had to take a leave of absence from San Diego State University, where he has been head baseball coach since 2003. The Aztecs went on to win the Mountain West Conference tournament with a Tony Gwynn bobblehead sitting in the dugout taking in all the action.
Gwynn, who was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, totaled 3,141 hits in 20 seasons with the San Diego Padres from 1982-2001, compiling a career .338 batting average – 18th best of all-time – in 2,440 games. The 15-time All-Star won eight batting titles and five Gold Glove Awards. He was a key member of the 1984 and 1998 San Diego Padres National League Championship teams.
“Tony will be remembered in baseball circles for his hitting acumen, as evidenced by a lofty .338 lifetime batting average and an astonishing eight National League batting titles,” said Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “But it was his infectious laugh, ever-present smile and humble disposition that made Mr. Padre a favorite in San Diego and an endearing figure to a nation of baseball fans who marveled at his career accolades and celebrated his 2007 induction into the Hall of Fame in record numbers.”
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig issued the following statement Monday:
“Major League Baseball today mourns the tragic loss of Tony Gwynn, the greatest Padre ever and one of the most accomplished hitters that our game has ever known, whose all-around excellence on the field was surpassed by his exuberant personality and genial disposition in life. Tony was synonymous with San Diego Padres baseball, and with his .338 career batting average and eight batting titles, he led his beloved ballclub to its greatest heights, including two National League pennants.
“Tony loved our game, the city of San Diego and his alma mater where he starred and coached, San Diego State University, and he was a part of a wonderful baseball family. His commitment to the children of San Diego made him a deserving recipient of our game’s highest off-field honor, the Roberto Clemente Award, in 1999.
“For more than 30 years, Tony Gwynn was a source of universal goodwill in the National Pastime, and he will be deeply missed by the many people he touched. On behalf of all of our Clubs, I extend my deepest condolences to Tony’s wife Alicia, their son Tony Jr. of the Phillies, their daughter Anisha, the Padres franchise, his fans in San Diego and his many admirers throughout Baseball.”
Other reactions from around baseball poured in on Twitter Monday morning:
RIP Tony. Way to young. Sad day.
— Wade Boggs (@ChickenMan3010) June 16, 2014
— Josh Suchon (@Josh_Suchon) June 16, 2014
Prayers and thoughts go out to the Gwynn family for the passing of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn Sr. Great man and he will be missed.
— Nomar Garciaparra (@Nomar5) June 16, 2014
Some new pudgy guy just slapped a single off me.
— Old Hoss Radbourn (@OldHossRadbourn) June 16, 2014