Tony Gwynn died today after several years of treating cancer of the salivary glands (which he believes he got from chewing tobacco). This is just awful. He was only 54 years old. As a big Padres fan, Tony was a major part of my childhood. I was 14 years old when he helped take the team to the World Series. He played at San Diego State (then returned there to coach) and played his Hall of Fame entire career with the Padres, so was truly a San Diego phenomenon. Even more importantly, he was universally known as a nice person. As a kid, I had the opportunity to chat very quickly with him a few times while getting his autograph and he couldn't have been more friendly (as was also the case with Jerry Coleman, who also died this year). And just look at these statistics. Only 434 strikeouts in his entire career alongside 3,141 hits. One of the eternal "what ifs" debated among Padres fans is whether he could've batted .400 in 1994 if the strike hadn't ended the season.
I've written before about how I have an autographed print on my office. With Tony Gwynn there really isn't hagiography. He was a great baseball player and a great person.
What terrible news. What a horrible year for the team. On and off the field.
Update: The Padres issued a statement, which includes this. Very true.
There are no words to express what Tony means to this organization and this community. More than just Mr. Padre, Tony was Mr. San Diego. He cared deeply about our city and had a profound impact on our community. He forever will be remembered not only for his tremendous on-field accomplishments, but also for his infectious laugh, warm, outgoing personality and huge heart.