Tony Gwynn, a Hall of Fame outfielder who spent his entire Major League Baseball career with the San Diego Padres, has died after a multiyear battle with salivary gland cancer. He was 54.
“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,” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.
Gwynn — known for slapping singles between third base and shortstop in his 20-year career with the Padres — had 3,141 hits and a .338 batting average. He also was a 15-time All-Star. In 2007, Gwynn was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame with Cal Ripken.
“He was beloved by so many, especially the Hall of Fame family, for his kindness, graciousness and passion for the game,” Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement. “Tony was one of baseball history’s most consistent hitters and most affable personalities. He was an icon for San Diego Padres fans, never more evident than on Induction Day of 2007, when tens of thousands of Tony’s most appreciative fans filled Cooperstown for his Hall of Fame speech. We extend our deepest sympathies to Alicia and the entire Gwynn family.”
“I am deeply saddened to learn that Tony Gwynn has lost his courageous battle against cancer,” Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said in a statement. “Since his diagnosis, Tony displayed the same tenacity and drive in his fight against this horrible disease that he brought to the plate in every at bat of his Hall of Fame career.”
Gwynn was known as “Mr. Padre” during and after his career in the majors. The team retired his No. 19 jersey in September 2004 at Petco Park. In the spring of 2005, the street on which the stadium is located was named Tony Gwynn Drive in his honor. There’s also a statue of Gwynn at Petco Park, which was unveiled in 2007.
After Gwynn retired from the Padres in 2001, he became the head baseball coach for San Diego State University, his alma mater.
He was diagnosed with cancer almost a decade later. In March, Gwynn took a medical leave of absence while undergoing cancer treatment, but he had recently signed a one-year extension with the Aztecs.
San Diego State tweeted Monday, “Our hearts are heavy today. RIP Tony Gwynn. Thoughts to the entire Gwynn family and SDSU Baseball family.”
As a collegiate baseball player, Gwynn was an All-American at San Diego State. He also played basketball while growing up in Long Beach and arrived at San Diego State as a highly recruited point guard in 1977.
He played basketball for the Aztecs for four seasons and baseball for three seasons, garnering all-Western Athletic Conference honors in both sports. According to San Diego State’s athletics website, Gwynn remains the only athlete in WAC history to be honored as an all-conference performer in two sports.
Baseball still runs in the Gwynn family. Gwynn’s son, Tony Gwynn Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps and currently is an outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies.
“Today I lost my Dad, my best friend and my mentor,” Gwynn Jr. tweeted on Monday. “I’m gonna miss u so much pops. I’m gonna do everything in my power to continue to… Make u proud!”
Gwynn died surrounded by family at Pomerado Hospital in Poway, California.
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