Tony Gwynn, Sr. died Monday at age 54 after a lengthy battle with salivary gland cancer. More than a decade removed from his final professional season, his legacy still resonates with those who remember him as one of the game’s greatest hitters.
Gwynn, whose career spanned 20 illustrious years earned the title of Mr. Padre, a fitting title for a man that spent all 20 of those years in San Diego. Other opportunities came and went, yet Gwynn elected to stay with the team he loved while amassing 3,141 hits, a career .338 batting average, and a wildly recognized left-handed swing.
Outside of his work on the field, in 1995, Gwynn and his wife Alicia founded the Tony and Alicia Gwynn Foundation (TAG) focusing on character education and economic development. He also partnered with various organizations, working to inspire young people, and his charity work would earn him MLB’s prestigious Roberto Clemente award for service in 1999.
RBI mourns the loss of Tony Gwynn. He was a class act and very generous with his time, especially for kids. pic.twitter.com/PHCdnKmU69
— MLBRBI (@MLBRBI) June 16, 2014
In 2001, Gwynn put his bat aside to become the head baseball coach for San Diego State University, where he once played baseball and basketball as a student. Six years later, he was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame alongside Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles.
Three years later, he was diagnosed with cancer and would undergo complicated operations to his right cheek. In March, Gwynn took a medical leave of absence from his coaching position.
Our hearts are heavy today. RIP Tony Gwynn. Thoughts to the entire Gwynn family and SDSU Baseball family.
— San Diego State (@SDSU) June 16, 2014
“For more than 30 years, Tony Gwynn was a source of universal goodwill in the National Pastime, and he will be deeply missed by the many people he touched,” said baseball Commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig in a statement today. “On behalf of all of our Clubs, I extend my deepest condolences to Tony’s wife Alicia, their son Tony Jr. of the Phillies, their daughter Anisha, the Padres franchise, his fans in San Diego and his many admirers throughout Baseball.”
Gwynn’s son, Tony Gwynn Jr., is an outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies, sharing in his father’s love of the game. He expressed his sadness via Twitter today, which was echoed by many.
Today I lost my Dad, my best friend and my mentor. I'm gonna miss u so much pops. I'm gonna do everything in my power to continue to…
— Tony Gwynn Jr. (@tonygwynnjr) June 16, 2014
We are terribly sad to say goodbye to our teammate, our friend and a legend, Tony Gwynn. Rest in peace, Mr. Padre.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) June 16, 2014
I take some comfort knowing Tony Gwynn is in heaven right now talking hitting with Ted Williams. RIP, Mr. Padre
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) June 16, 2014
Rest in peace, Mr. Padre. With heavy hearts we join the baseball world in mourning the passing of Tony Gwynn. pic.twitter.com/GBIvFVOMcV
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 16, 2014
— Cal Ripken Sr Fdn (@CalRipkenSrFdn) June 16, 2014
I'm so happy I called Tony Gwynn 2 weeks ago to see how he was doing! Farewell my friend! #RIPTonyGwynn
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) June 16, 2014
So saddened to hear of MLB legend-Tony Gwynn passed away. 54 years old, so sad.
— Steve Weatherford (@Weatherford5) June 16, 2014
Saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn. Another legends life cut short by the hands of cancer. Rest in peace 19. #NVRQT
— Jon Lester (@JLester31) June 16, 2014