SAN DIEGO – Major League Baseball legend Tony Gwynn, who had a remarkable 20-season career with the San Diego Padres, has died at the age of 54.
“We are terribly sad to say goodbye to our teammate, our friend and a legend, Tony Gwynn,” the Padres tweeted. “Rest in peace, Mr. Padre.”
Shortly after Gwynn’s death was announced, city officials and several others issued statements on social media sites mourning the loss.
“Very sad day for our City,” City Councilman Scott Sherman said. “My thoughts and prayers go out to Tony Gwynn’s family.”
City Councilman David Alvarez said the city was terribly sad to say goodbye to a teammate, a friend and a legend. “Rest in peace, Mr. Padre,” he said.
City Councilman Mark Kersey said he was sending prayers to Gwynn’s family
“An amazing hitter, a great man, an exemplary San Diegan,” Kersey said. “Number 19 will be missed by so many.”
Gwynn was the rarest of athletes not just because he had a .338 career batting average, won five Gold Glove Awards, seven National League batting titles and earned a spot on 16 All-Star teams.
It’s because he played his entire 20-season Hall of Fame, Major League Baseball career with one team, the San Diego Padres.
Gwynn came to San Diego after graduating high school at Long Beach Polytechnic in 1977 to enroll at San Diego State University where he played baseball and basketball.
Gwynn still holds the school basketball record of 590 career assists – 111 more than the next-closest player.
Regardless of his success on the court, his future was on the diamond and in 1981, the Padres chose Gwynn in the third round of the amateur draft.
He made his MLB debut on July 19, 1982 against Montreal, and doubled in his fourth at bat.
On his way to second base, MLB’s all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, told Gwynn, “Don’t catch me after one night.”
Hitting would become Gwynn’s calling card.
The outfielder rapped out 3,141 hits – 18th all-time, and flirted with the .400 mark in 1994 when he posted a robust .394 batting average, only to see the season end early due to a strike.
Gwynn finished with a batting average over .300 in 19 of his 20 seasons and never struck out more than 40 times in any one season.
Gwynn also played 27 post-season games, with a .306 batting average, and led the Padres to a pair of World Series appearances in 1984 and 1998.
As the calendar turned to the 21st century, Gwynn began to slow due to age and injuries. In 2001, at the age of 41, Gwynn knew it was time to call it a career.
“Today, I have to make it official. This will be my last year playing with the Padres,” Gwynn told MLB fans. “I’ve had a great time. It’s been wonderful experience. But I’m not dying today. People have been talking about it like I have nothing else to offer. I love baseball. I played this game for a long time. I’ve had a ball, but it’s just time to start thinking about doing something else.”
His baseball career in San Diego didn’t end.