By Mike Harrington
Some very sad news breaking today out of San Diego: Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, one of the purest hitters in the history of the game, has died at age 54 after battling cancer for several years. The Hall's official remembrance video issued today can be viewed above.
Gwynn had been coaching San Diego State, his alma mater, since 2003. He has been battling mouth and cheek cancer since 2010 and his health had been reportedly on the decline for a few months. Although signing a contract extension just last week, he had been on medical leave from San Diego State since March.
"Major League Baseball today mourns the tragic loss of Tony Gwynn," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement issued today. "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.
"... 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."
Gwynn was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 along with Cal Ripken Jr. It's believed to be the most highly attended ceremony ever in Cooperstown, with upwards of 80,000 people on hand. Two players from small markets who only combined to win one World Series. But both contributed so much to the game and did it with such high character that they were revered across the baseball world.
"This is an extraordinarily sad day," Ripken said in a statement today. "Tony was a Hall of Fame ballplayer but more importantly he was a wonderful man. Tony always had a big smile on his face and was one of the warmest and most genuine people I have ever had the honor of knowing. Like all baseball fans I will miss him very much and my thoughts are with his family today."
Chris Jenkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune has penned this terrific tribute to Gwynn's life and career and it's worth the read (and the multiple clicks to new pages). The Hall of Fame has issued his obituary on Gwynn here.
Gwynn finished his career in 2001 with 3,141 hits and a .338 lifetime batting average -- the highest of any player since 1939. He won eight National League batting titles. He batted .394 in the strike-shortened 1994 season, and historians say that was probably the best chance anyone has had to hit .400 in the last 60 years.
There is one statue at Petco Park, home of the Padres, and it's Gwynn. And the ballpark's address? Tony Gwynn Drive.
taggedHall of Fame/Cooperstown | Padres