Horrible news coming out of Poway, California today, the great Tony Gwynn has lost his battle against salivary gland cancer, he was 54.
Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 1981 MLB Draft he spent his entire 20 year career with the club, a rarity. During his time in San Diego he was superstar with 15 All-Star appearances, 5 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Slugger Awards and 8 NL Batting Champions Awards plus one World Series appearance in 1984 where the Padres lost to the Tigers. In 2004 the Padres retired his number and in 2007 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
During the 1980s and 1990s Gwynn was known as a pure hitter, his .394 BA in 1994 is the closest any player has come to hitting .400 since Ted Williams did it in 1941. His .3382 lifetime batting average puts him tied for 18th on the highest career batting average.
His passing, while not a surprise due to his long battle against cancer, is still a saddening situation. Many of the older collectors, like me, grew up watching Tony Gwynn. He was a good man and even if you did not collect his cards you were still satisfied pulling a Gwynn card.
I remember back in 1996 I was at a Walmart with my (ex)wife and this was a time when the Walmarts had a small section near the entrances which were set up as a sports shop, they had jerseys and sports equipment but they also had a glass cabinet that had sports cards. I picked out a couple of packs of 1996 Upper Deck and on the way home I opened the packs and I pulled a Gwynn predictor card for highest NL Monthly Average Leader. I was so excited because at the time Gwynn was almost automatic at leading the NL in batting but unfortunately the month I had was a down month for him and I didn’t win. I held on to the card for so long, only selling a couple of years ago when I went through a major purge.
If you collected his cards or not, he will be missed.