Tony Gwynn: Looking Back at a Hall Of Fame Career.

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Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died of salivary gland cancer Monday at the age of 54. Gwynn blamed his  cancer on his habit of dipping smokeless tobacco over the course of his 20-year career with the Padres.

tony gwynn

As a Native of San Diego, I felt it was time to step up to the plate, (I had to use a baseball metaphor) and put out this article on the man who would forever change the face of baseball as we knew it in San Diego.

Tony Gwynn made his MLB debut on July 19, 1982 for the San Diego Padres and made his final MLB appearance, October 7, 2001.  Tony Gwynn had an illustrious career. He tallied 3,141 hits, 135 home runs, 1,138 RBI’s, and retired with a career batting average of 338.

tony gwynnOn January 9, 2007, Gwynn was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, being selected on 532 out of 545 ballots (97.61%), seventh highest percentage in Hall of Fame voting history. He was inducted alongside Cal Ripken, Jr. on July 29, 2007. Ripken and Gwynn are two of the 46 players in the Hall of Fame who played their entire major league career for only one team. Both were elected almost unanimously in their first year of eligibility.

From his college days up until being drafted by the Padres, Tony Gwynn had a very successful career. He led the San Diego Padres to the playoffs not once, but twice.

I remember the first time, it was 1984, the City of San Diego was a whole new powerhouse of a team. They pulled off a successful routing of the Chicago Cubs, but entering the final round against the Detroit Tigers, the winds shifted and San Diego lost to Detroit.

It was a moment in time that electrified the Fans, the City of San Diego, and the team. Did this successful run to defeat dampen the mood? No it did not!

From then on, Tony Gwynn loved the life of a career in Baseball, never once thinking about being traded to another team: he felt at home with the Padres.

In 1997, SDSU’s baseball facility, Smith Stadium, was extensively renovated with $4 million from Padres owner John Moores. At Moores’ request, the stadium was renamed Tony Gwynn Stadium.

He was inducted into the Padres Hall of Fame in 2002, and the team retired his No. 19 in 2004.

tony gwynn


In 2007, a 9 1⁄2 foot 1,200lb bronze statue of Gwynn was unveiled in the park just beyond Petco Park‘s outfield. A plaque on the front reads: “Tony Gwynn, Mr. Padre.” At the base on the back is a quote from his father:

“If you work hard, good things will happen.”

The address of Petco Park is 19 Tony Gwynn Drive.


In 1991, Gwynn made a statement that is still remembered today.

“People can say what they want to say about me. I know I’ve never driven in a lot of runs. That stat never has been that important to me. But who in this league is better at putting the bat on the ball? Nobody.”

Unfortunately, he was later diagnosed with cancer, little was known about what type of cancer at the onset of the news, but as we later found out, it was salivary cancer.

Gwynn had three procedures to remove noncancerous growths from his parotid gland since 1997. In 2010 he was diagnosed with cancer of a salivary gland and had lymph nodes and tumors from the gland removed.The operation left his face partially paralyzed on the right side, leaving him unable to crack that award winning smile, but he still bellowed out that “trademark laugh”.

Later that year, he underwent eight weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He was declared cancer free afterwards, and also regained his ability to smile. Additional surgery was performed in 2012 to remove more cancerous growth and address nerve damage. Gwynn attributed the cancer to the dipping tobacco habit that he had since playing rookie ball in Walla Walla in 1981 Doctors, however, stated that studies had not linked parotid cancer with usage of chewing tobacco.

tony gwynn

Later, he experienced a loss of taste for food during radiation therapy for his cancer, and while being limited to a liquid diet, he lost 80 pounds (36 kg), all of which he regained after he resumed eating solid foods.

During another round of cancer treatments in April 2014, a mishap occurred in which Gwynn lost oxygen and was barely able to move. He was sent to rehabilitation to learn how to walk again. On June 16, 2014, Gwynn died at Pomerado Hospital in Poway due to complications from his cancer. He was 54 years old. His heart had stopped the night before on Father’s Day, when paramedics were called, and he was rushed from his home to the hospital.

Ask anyone here in San Diego, and they will tell you the same thing. His award winning smile and laugh, is what is most memorable to those who knew him, in addition to his successful 20 seasons as a Padre.

Gone? Yes. Forgotten? No, and his legacy will carry on forever in the MLB Hall of Fame.

  • Career Accolades:

(Tony Gwynn’s Career accolades are courtesy of Wikipedia)

Rest In Peace Tony Gwynn. You will be missed.

Editors Note: The staff here at YDCFF would like to offer our condolences to the Gwynn family. You will remain in our thoughts and prayers. May God bless and keep you during this time of loss.

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  • Al

    RIP Tony! I am showing my age, but I remember his rookie season. I actually had his rookie card. He was one of the all-time greats. Other than Wade Boggs, who retired with a lifetime 354 avg, I can’t think of anyone more consistent at putting the bat to the ball.