“Mr. Padre–A Plus Player-A Plus Person”
A night to remember, recall, never forget .
It’s another night in a likely another losing season. That’s what Padres baseball is right now, till all the young players arrive.
But on this night, a Wednesday at the Stadium, the conversation wasn’t about last place, the Washington Nationals, or even the upcoming weekend when they salute the Padres team that went to the World Series.
It was a night to remember “T”…Tony Gwynn. It was his birthday, May 9th, and a night to think about all the facets of Tony Gwynn’s career and life as a Padre.
You can pull up any stat you want, and you realize his greatness.
The gold, shining in the light, on his Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown.
The silver slugger bats for all those years.
The (.338) career batting average. The fact he hit over .300 in 19-of his 20-seasons with the Friars, the only year being the rookie season.
The amazing (.394) season in 1994-where he flirted with the magical .400-mark, established by people like Ty Cobb and Ted Williams.
The lifetime hit total of (3,141).
There were equally impressive (.370-.372) seasons.
The (.338) on base career mark. The OPS number of (.847), not bad for a non power hitter.
How about the fact he struck out just 434-times in 10,232-plate appearances.
15-All Star berths. 7-Batting titles. 5-Gold Gloves.
There were winning seasons, lots of losing season, and the joy the odd year when Padres ownership put good players around him, Ken Caminiti, Wally Joyner Kevin Brown, Greg Vaughn, Ricky Henderson..
There were a litany of good managers, bad managers, good GMs’, great owners and awful owners, but thru it all, there was Tony Gwynn’s loyalty to the franchise, the fans, his adopted home and his alma mater SDSU.
Pick the greatest moments, and the memories come flooding back.
Hit 3,000th hit -in Montreal, before lots of empty seats, with very little fanfare anywhere beyond the 619-area code.
Jumping up and down, like a little kid on Christmas morning, after scoring the winning run in an All star game.
The pride in Cooperstown in his Hall of Fame speech.
The smile on his face when he talked about the excitement of going to play the World Series in the House that Ruth Built, Yankees Stadium.
The statements bypassing bigger paydays for free agency, to remain here.
The illustrious moment, honoring a wheel-chair bound Ted Williams, at the All Star game at Fenway Park in Boston..
Yes, there were sad moments. Loss after loss. The pain of the personal bankruptcy and agent problems. And of course the sadness of the cancer, once, the cancer again.
But on this night, we remember the specialness of Tony Gwynn.
And outside Crown Jewel that is beloved Petco Park, the beauty of that monument, in his favorite pose, the magic swing for another base hit.
I close my eyes and lots of things come back involving #19.
The guy, on the first swing of the first day of spring training in Yuma, slapped the first pith thru his patented 5.5 hole.
I remember the laugh, always the laugh. I relish the smile, always a smile. I hear his voice, always his voice, bouncing off clubhouse walls.
I remember his kindness to fans, opposing players, and the working media.
Tony Gwynn got it. Got it as a great professional player. Got it as his responsibility to be a leader. Got it as to dealing with the media.
Somewhere up in heaven, I think I can hear him still arguing hitting with Ted Williams.
Tony Gwynn….A-Plus Player. A-Plus Person. A really nice night to remember, maybe the most special athlete I have had the honor of dealing with.