Tony Gwynn, whose sweet left-handed swing and unparalleled preparation made him one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, died today at the age of 54.
The San Diego Padres, for whom Gwynn played his entire 20-year-career, announced his death.
Read on for more about the man known as “Mr. Padre.”
1. He Was Suffering From Salivary Gland Cancer, Which He Blamed on Chewing Tobacco
Gwynn was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in 2010. As Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury points out, Gwynn has suspected years of chewing tobacco caused his cancer, but his doctors never confirmed the connection.
According to the Associated Press, Gwynn had two operations to treat his cancer between August 2010 and February 2012.
Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig released a statement mourning Gwynn’s death:
Statement from Bud Selig on Tony Gwynn’s passing: pic.twitter.com/6ggQ3NN1Hd
— Erik Malinowski (@erikmal) June 16, 2014
2. He Had the Highest Career Batting Average Since Ted Williams
Gwynn retired with an astounding .338 batting average — the highest of any player since another left-handed hitting outfielder: Ted Williams, who’s considered by many to be the greatest hitter of all time.
“Mr. Padre” won a record-tying eight National League batting titles and hit .394 in the strike-shortened 1994 season, the closest anyone has come to hitting .400 since Williams hit .406 in 1941.
He hit better than .300 in 19 of 20 seasons and .370 or better three times.
3. He Was a 15-Time All-Star & a First-Ballot Hall of Famer
In addition to being an eight-time batting champ, Gwynn was a five-time Gold Glove winner and a 15-time All-Star. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 on the first ballot, with 97.8 percent of the vote.
Watch his Hall of Fame induction speech in the video above.
4. He Hit .500 With a Home Run in the 1998 World Series
Gwynn spent most of his career as the best player on bad teams in San Diego. But he did twice lead the Padres to the World Series: In 1984 against the Detroit Tigers and in 1998 against the New York Yankees.
The Pads lost in five games to the Tigers and ran into a dominant Yankees team that swept them en route to their first of three consecutive titles.
Gwynn hit .263 in the ’84 Series but hit .500 (8-for-16) in the ’98 with a home run off of David Wells that he crushed off the facade of the right field upper deck at Yankee Stadium. Watch the homer in the video above.
5. His Son, Tony Gwynn Jr., is a Major Leaguer
Tony Gwynn Jr., a speedy outfielder who, like his dad, starred at San Diego State, plays for the Philadelphia Phillies. Gwynn Jr. came up in 2006 with the Milwaukee Brewers and has also played for the Padres (2009-10) and the Dodgers (2011-12).
Just yesterday, Comcast detailed the Gwynns’ father-son relationship and Gwynn Jr.’s plans to call his dad on Father’s Day:
I always try to get in an I love you. For a while that was uncomfortable for me, I don’t know why. But since 2010, it hasn’t been uncomfortable. It’s something I want to make sure I get in because you never know what’s going to happen.