Posts Tagged ‘Tony Gwynn’

The San Diego Padres took this picture shortly after the statue was unveiled.

Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn would have turned 57 years old on Tuesday if he were alive but his birthday was remembered in a fond way by the city of Poway.

Gwynn lived in the north San Diego County city about 20 miles north of Qualcomm Stadium during his Hall of Fame career and up to his death in 2014 due to salivary cancer. The eight-time batting champion with the San Diego Padres was honored Tuesday with the unveiling of an 11-foot statue of him in his Padres’ uniform tipping his cap and holding daughter Anisha.

And think, because Gwynn had a personal relationship with me, the ceremony was on my radar and I made sure the nice local story went national. http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/MLB/2017/05/09/Tony-Gwynns-hometown-erects-statue-in-his-honor/1141494361490/

It also reminds me of those times Gwynn the college baseball coach would get on my case because my newspaper wouldn’t let me cover more of his San Diego State baseball games. One night in the office, I scored big with this doozy: “Most people want to see more of Tony Gwynn. Tony Gwynn wants to see more of me.”

 

The All-Star teams are on the field prior to the American League's 4-2 victory over the National League at San Diego's Petco Park.

The All-Star teams are on the field prior to the American League’s 4-2 victory over the National League at San Diego’s Petco Park on July 12, 2016.

Attended my third baseball All-Star Game on Tuesday night and it certainly was a memorable time.

San Diego’s Petco Park doesn’t receive opportunities to get all dressed up too often due to the Padres’ mostly woeful campaigns – you might have heard the man that runs the team recently referred to the squad as “Miserable Failures” – but the ballpark looked fabulous on this occasion.

The American League won the contest 4-2 for its 11th victory in the last 14 years and Kansas City Royals star Eric Hosmer deservedly won MVP honors with a solo homer and an RBI single.

But the biggest moment for San Diegans occurred prior to the game when it was announced that the National League batting title is being named after Padres icon Tony Gwynn.

Even with the announcement being tipped off – the naming of the American League batting crown after Rod Carew was announced first – it was an emotional moment for nearly everyone in the ballpark and it promoted the crowd to break into a “Tony, Tony, Tony” chant for the Hall of Famer who died in 2014.

“Rod is one of the most highly decorated players in American League history, who made 18 straight All-Star appearances in his Hall of Fame career,” baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Tony is considered one of the greatest hitters in the history of the National League and there is no better place to honor him than in San Diego.

“Major League Baseball is pleased to recognize their extraordinary careers by naming our batting crowns in their honor.”

The two players combined for 15 batting titles – eight for Gwynn, seven for Carew – and it certainly was a smart idea for MLB to come up with this method to recognize two of the sport’s best-ever hitters.

Another big deal for San Diegans was seeing former Padres closer Trevor Hoffman delivering the game ball from the bullpen. His signature entry song “Hells Bells” by AC/DC blared in the background as Hoffman soaked in the moment.

Former Padres Cy Young award winner Randy Jones threw out the first ball and it looked like he still possesses better control than most of today’s hurlers.

Former University of San Diego standout Kris Bryant, a star for the Chicago Cubs, added to the local flavor by smacking a first-inning homer off Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox.

Rancho Bernardo High alumnus Cole Hamels of the Texas Rangers pitched out of a third-inning jam for the AL, Padres pitcher Drew Pomeranz pitched a scoreless inning in the fourth for the NL, and emerging San Diego star Wil Myers batted clean-up and had a double in three at-bats.

It was such a fun night at the ballpark that we’re going to pretend we didn’t see the silly fans doing “The Wave.” (Pretend I didn’t mention it too). Or the singer guy changing the words of the Canadian National Anthem.

A few other highlights worth filing away in the memories’ folder:

–Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz played in his final All-Star game and walked in his final at-bat. Edwin Encarnacion of the Toronto Blue Jays entered to pinch run for him and every player on the AL team exited the dugout to congratulate Ortiz.

–Royals catcher Salvador Perez joined Hosmer in homering for the American League and it was a familiar face that both players took deep. San Francisco Giants starter Johnny Cueto was a teammate of both players last fall when Kansas City won its first World Series title in 30 years.

–The National League threatened in the eighth inning and had the bases loaded. St. Louis Cardinals rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz came up as a pinch hitter and Houston Astros reliever Will Harris came in from the bullpen. Harris won the battle by retiring Diaz on a full-count called strike.

–Cleveland pitcher Corey Kluber picked up the victory with a perfect inning of relief. Kluber could have been pitching regularly at Petco Park if not for a blunder by the Padres as the franchise dealt him to Cleveland in a three-team trade that brought fading outfielder Ryan Ludwick to San Diego in 2010. Kluber went from minor-league afterthought with the Padres to 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner and now will always be remembered as the winning pitcher of the 2016 All-Star Game.

Remember way back in time when Tim Flannery was a popular baseball player in San Diego?

Played on perhaps the most-beloved team in franchise history back in 1984 – the first of only two times the Padres made the World Series.

His biggest claim to fame is that it was him who hit the meek grounder to first base that Leon Durham of the Chicago Cubs somehow let go through his legs. That play opened the floodgates in the final game of the National League Championship Series and Tony Gwynn hit the blistering shot that almost took Ryne Sandberg’s head off and the Padres were headed to the World Series.

The Padres were the only team Flannery played for in his 11 major-league seasons. He also served a coaching stint during Bruce Bochy’s tenure as manager before he joined Bochy in San Francisco.

But apparently, Tim Flannery hates the Padres in 2016. Oh, and he hates the fans, too. Yes, he hates all of you.

You know, the fans that always rooted for him and appreciated that he hustled all the time. For a guy with a .255 career batting average, nine homers, and suspect range at second base, you’d think he would feel like a fortunate person.

But nope, this is what Flannery has to say to you fans (sorry, not cleaning up the grammar of a 58-year-old who missed writing class because he was apparently focused on becoming an expert judge at finger painting):

Tim Flannery @TimFlannery2

Ok, enough San Diego, here’s the deal

Ok. One time only. You Padre fans who drift on my site, challenge me to manage, rag on my for betrayal. Here’s the deal one time. One time only. We got run out of your, me and Boch, after he won. We have lived with “your traders” come back and win for us.” We won in SF for many reasons. If you don’t win in Sf you get run out of town. Everyone, the gm, coaches, player owners, they get the players, and pay to keep them. You Padre folks lose after pounding your chest about “winning the offseason” and give all your young studs away ( you should, you can’t pay them in arbitration years anyway) you then get draft picks, and your starting lineup will be lots of rule 5 guys, players no one protected. But sell the sizzle of the season” we got draft picks.” Your draft picks will be gone before 2 percent ever makes it, ( remember they haven’t even been signed yet) Then you have the ignorance to tweet me, shame me, while your team only won ever when we were there, but that makes you experts, but, your not the history of that team, we are. Though they lose you support them, enable them, demand nothing from your ownership, and feel great calling them your hometown”. You get what you demand. Leave me alone. People create history where they are, who they become in that moment. I’m a Giant for life, you all allowed the organization to do whatever they wanted, and so did Giant fans, but don’t diss me with your Padre loyalty. There were two World Series you ever went to, I was on those teams. It’s time now to grow up, get over it, quit demanding from me, and quit being fooled by the some smoke and mirrors. Quit being ignorant. You can’t even write now your starting lineup, no one knows, is that weird to you? Don’t you think maybe I’m not the problem, and you all should hold the team accountable. I’m Done playing with gloves on. Leave me alone , I am part of baseball history, even in your town. You do something for once. But I’m not feeling guilty for winning 3 in 5 years, I know what the demands took from me as a mean, a husband, a dad, a coach…Coach Flan. Do t be a hater, get your head out of your arse, educate. Tim….demand to win.

So there you go, some bitter ramblings by someone who feels the fans are the reason the Padres aren’t very good.

It was interesting that he said “maybe I’m not the problem.” I’ve never once heard anybody say Tim Flannery is the problem for why the Padres are a substandard franchise.

And there’s this – if you post this type of nonsense on Twitter, you open yourself up to comments.

Apparently, Flannery didn’t like my comment when I retweeted his silly missive to my followers: “Tim Flannery thinks he’s why the #Padres went to 1984 World Series. Oh, he did hit wimpy grounder Leon Durham missed.”

And that comment went sailing right past Flannery – you know, like those fastballs did when the Padres tried to make him a starter – and this was the best reply the baseball journeyman could muster:

flannery.crop

Sarah Stephens won the amateur all-around title for mule riding with Lizzy.

Sarah Stephens won the amateur all-around title for mule riding with Lizzy.

(more…)

Stephen Curry has emerged as a bona fide star over the past two seasons but now he has a chance to hit the megastar platform.

Being named regular-season MVP of the NBA boosted him up another level and now he is about to embark on the NBA Finals stage for the first time when the Golden State Warriors face the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Take down the Cavs and a guy named LeBron James and Curry’s stock – on and off the court – goes skyrocketing to a new stratosphere.

It’s a good stage to be on for sure and more and more people have caught on that one of the faces of the NBA is a 6-foot-3 guard who was once passed over by all the major colleges and ended up being a major star at tiny Davidson College.

Of course, the slaps in the face continued on the night of the NBA Draft when the Minnesota Timberwolves picked some guy named Jonny Flynn – don’t Google him, not in the league – over Curry. That act of stupidly explains perfectly while the Timberwolves are indeed the Timberwolves.

So it has been a charming story to see Curry drain 3-pointers from all areas of the court and evolve into one of the top players in the NBA. His wife and daughter receive plenty of TV time as do his parents – father Dell played 16 seasons in the NBA – and the endorsement opportunities are rolling in.

His image is spotless.

Uh oh, did I say spotless?

Here is where the worrying begins: Are we seeing the real Stephen Curry or will he become the next athlete to combust at some point?

Too many times, we have been fooled by an athlete that appears to be an outstanding person and then we learn of some shady acts or despicable behavior.

Who saw the Tiger Woods sex harem scandal coming? A married man totally crafting his family image and Tiger was stripped down – pun intended – and exposed (yeah, also intended) and funny how his golf game also went into decline as his personal life did.

Who can forget Kobe Bryant being accused of rape in 2003? It was stunning a big-time star like him would even be in such a position and it has forever stained his legacy. Bryant didn’t serve jail time but he did apologize for his actions and he also settled a civil suit with the accuser, which is the athletes’ way of buying out of the crime.

And whatever was more stunning than the O.J. Simpson murder case? His ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and friend Ron Goldman were slaughtered by one of the all-time greatest running backs in football history. (Sorry, not using the word allegedly since he didn’t back up his boast that he would look for the real killers). I will never forget the surreal scene of a guy going from being totally beloved to being viewed as a totally despised monster in a matter of days. The White Bronco – not you Peyton Manning — lives on.

We could talk about disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong for hours. He was always a jerk, always treated people rudely, lied through his teeth all the time about his juicing and really has no redeeming positive qualities. Think of that, he is such a rotten apple that he doesn’t even belong in a good athletes turn into buffoons discussion.

New faces pop on the scene each year. Ray Rice was hailed as a great guy in the community before he smacked his then-fiance in the elevator and dragged her out like a carcass of meat. And how about Adrian Peterson beating his young child with a switch? I shook hands with Peterson once and my hand was sore for two hours so I can’t even imagine somebody of his unbelievable strength brutally whipping their son like that.

So this is what we are asking of Curry – don’t turn into a buffoon someday. Don’t become a moron. Don’t be living a secret life where you are scoring out of wedlock and eventually one gets pregnant. Don’t punch anyone in your family. Don’t be a fraud.

Seems like easy stuff to achieve but too many athletes fail at it. Though I’m from San Diego and two of the biggest stars in the city’s sports history had no troubles being good citizens with impeccable reputations.

Guys named Tony Gwynn and LaDainian Tomlinson.

Curry is on the same path as those two legends and let’s see if he can keep it up. The image is spotless, his popularity is out-of-control high and he’s one of the top outside shooters the league has ever seen.

And now he has an NBA title to chase and we can all sit back and watch the Curry vs. LeBron show. Should be an entertaining NBA Finals.

And let’s hope we are still talking about this Stephen Curry being a real good guy a decade from now.

brick.dad

There is a brick that honors my late father in the courtyard behind and below the Western Metal Building at Petco Park.

It is always an awesome feeling to go to this area when I visit San Diego. But unfortunately, I might have to throw up the next time I visit the stellar ballpark.

Because I will see this name adorned in the area: Selig Hall of Fame Plaza.

Really? Naming something after outgoing commissioner Bud Selig? Why?

Sounds like some sucking up by the latest ownership of the Padres – who might want to focus on putting a better product on the playing surface than naming something after the commissioner infamous for closing his eyes during baseball’s steroid era.

Selig has nothing to do with San Diego and there is no reason to name anything at Petco Park after this guy.

Just last month, the guy didn’t even feel honoring the late Tony Gwynn during the All-Star Game was a worthwhile thing to do.

And I saw some spin control saying Selig saved baseball in San Diego. Wow.

I was one of the reporters covering the process that got the downtown ballpark built and Larry Lucchino – with a decent amount of help from John Moores – saved baseball in San Diego.

And baseball fans in San Diego are very much aware of that.

To name something after Bud Selig is just further proof that the Padres are a franchise with no clue what the public or the fans think. Because this is one big swing-and-a-miss.

Take your own survey at the ballpark. Fans will suggest it be named after Gwynn or late broadcaster Jerry Coleman.

If you had asked this question last week and told fans it could be named after anybody in baseball, it’s hard to fathom even five people saying “Hey, name it after Bud Selig.”

It’s such a stupid notion that I wouldn’t mind digging up the brick to honor my father right now.

The problem with that is I would be tempted to throw it at either executive chairman Ron Fowler or CEO Mike Dee.

Then again, hitting them in the head with a brick might make them think more clearly.

The third version of vacation via tweets has hit the cyber world.

My latest return to my awesome hometown of San Diego was wonderful and here is the tweet-by-tweet blow of what kind of became known as #VacationSanDiego.

It was only my fourth time home since I moved from the paradise of Southern California to the fine city of Boise, Idaho. And, of course, there was one dorky woman who screeched “Potatoes!” when finding out where I live.

So I now kind of know what it feels like when native “Idahoans” – what a dumb term – experience it.

At heart, I will always be a San Diego guy. Time to enjoy the 2014 version of vacation via tweets. Enjoy.

JULY 10

–The suitcase is packed so the #SanDiego vacation is about to commence. So you may see me somewhere around #SoCal through July 21.

–Just getting off plane in #SanDiego … Did LeBron sign with anyone yet? … Nice ocean breeze too. #ahhhhhhhhh

–I’m on trolley. Two guys talking about #Padres & #Dodgers tied 1-1. Then I hear this: “I sure hope we can go to the World Series (cont)

–this year. We haven’t been since ’98.” … Yep, they are talking about the PADRES playing in the 2014 World Series. #ummmmmmmmmm

JULY 11

–Got into San Diego & wanted to get online at my mom’s house. She called @CoxComm for help & it was a two-plus hour nightmare. The support

–people @CoxComm couldn’t have been more inept & didn’t come close to resolving the issues or even discussing it. Just as bad was their phone

–reps as you sat on hold for 30-plus minutes & then got transferred again without help. @CoxComm needs to look up what “customer support”

–means as I am appalled at the waste of time without any meaningful effort to solve the issues. Shame on you @CoxComm

–Oh delicious chicken at #ElPolloLoco … How I have missed you. #Succulent#VacationSanDiego

–Look what was found in my mom’s garage: 1978 commemorative 7up San Diego All-Star game bottles. pic.twitter.com/02ZuDV8Gtv

–Dinner at delicious Tio Leo’s during #VacationSanDiego pic.twitter.com/FZaFS3tUIa

–I’m on the #SanDiegoState campus & not being paid to be on it. And not here digging up dirt. Weird feeling. pic.twitter.com/iZ2bwMUIWM

–The plaque at Tony Gwynn Stadium. pic.twitter.com/n18PWq8Kdi

JULY 12

–Vacation hijinks — locked out of house for 90 minutes with phone inside & no shoes on. Hard to break into my mom’s house I have learned.

–Great night on Coronado Island watching a band with my brother, my sister-in-law & her best friend since forever. #VacationSanDiego rocks.

JULY 13

–Can’t wait until the #WorldCupFinal is settled by penalty kicks. #SaidNoOneEver

–We shall be forever thankful to Mario Gotze for saving us from penalty-kick conclusion http://wp.me/pumSY-Vd  via @wordpressdotcom

–If you know what #MonaLisa pizza is in #SanDiego then you know my family and I did dinner correctly (and awesomely) on Sunday night.

JULY 14

–I’m at famous South Mission Beach in #SanDiego. About 68 degrees in mid-July. pic.twitter.com/2lzKzI9XUZ

–Have reached the Pacific Beach boardwalk — about two miles north of where I started. #VacationSanDiego #VacationSanDiego pic.twitter.com/98oNV9acUK

–This dude just caught a mackerel off PB Pier. Says he nearly reeled in a 140-pound mako shark two days ago. pic.twitter.com/V92MbIqEmf

–Just rode the old rickety Belmont Park roller coaster — my chiropractor will be happy to see me. #VacationSanDiego pic.twitter.com/7qhgqPgmCB

–No trip home to #SanDiego is complete without a stop at my dad’s gravesite. pic.twitter.com/tgRnGjKVjX

–So glad I’m on vacation and enjoying the #SanDiego summer awesomeness. Do not miss the #Boise sauna at all. #SanDiegoVacation

–One of my cousins says I shouldn’t use social media while on vacation. Can the would-be robber please turn on my air conditioner on July 21?

–Out exercising at #LakeMurray & there are copters making some type of rescue high atop #CowlesMountain. Fire crews also involved. #SanDiego

JULY 15

–High of 75 today in #SanDiego. Overnight low will be 69. #AwesomenessNeverEndsInMyBelovedHometown

–About to move my vacation base to Murrieta, CA for next three days. If you’re near that vicinity or LA, this is your time to meet up with me.

–So are they waiting for Huston Street to come into game to acknowledge Tony Gwynn? And if Street doesn’t come in, then … *crickets* …

#Fox swings and misses on All-Star Game telecast by failing to tribute Tony Gwynn http://wp.me/pumSY-Vi  via @wordpressdotcom #MLB

JULY 16

–This is when a #SoCal vacation reaches its zenith — a visit to #InNOutBurger. Sooooooooo delicious. pic.twitter.com/7eeaWrprpm

JULY 17

–Just saw the infamous #Murrieta border patrol protest site. All of three protestors there. #NothingToSeeHere

JULY 18

–Qualcomm Stadium in #SanDiego, where I attended a ton of sporting events as a kid & covered games as a sportswriter. pic.twitter.com/CSnKNpqXXK

–Here is my view from #PetcoPark for #Padres vs #Mets. Free, of course. Always good to go to ballpark in my hometown. pic.twitter.com/MDkzvln9uR

–I’m at Petco Park & am told by reliable #Padres source that Huston Street has been traded to #Angels.

–Just witnessed the #Padres score four runs in a single inning. The #SanDiego Padres. Of 2014. #ThisCantBeRealLife

–Maybe I will address this on my website on Saturday but I will kind of miss Huston Street not being on #Padres. Outstanding 2 1/2 seasons.

–My sister told some random gal on the trolley that I moved from San Diego to #Boise & the predictably silly response happened: “Potatoes!”

–Random trolley gal plans to move back to CA after seven years in Minnesota because it gets “too cold.” Um, pretty sure that wasn’t a secret.

JULY 19

–It is 73 right now in #SanDiego … The high will be 74 … Overnight low will be 68 … #MightBeTimeToMoveBack

–Dealing Huston Street another reminder that #Padres remain on road to nowhere http://wp.me/pumSY-Vp  via @wordpressdotcom

–For those keeping track, June 18, 2010 is last time #Padres won with me inside Petco Park. So you know what’s coming. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SDN/SDN201006180.shtml …

–OK, here is my Petco Park view on Saturday per #Padres vs #Mets. Yes, of course, free again. #StillOwnSanDiego #LOL pic.twitter.com/rMbYDpeI2R

–People to my right — and 15 seconds later to my left — we’re shown on #PetcoPark scoreboard & I think it was the highlight of their lives.

–Some miserable people are trying to get the wave going. Over & over. Apparently baseball is boring when the #Padres score runs.

–Seth Smith homers & dude is back to trying to start wave. He also announced loudly: “I don’t even like baseball!” Really now — who knew?

–Here is the statue of Jerry Coleman at Petco Park. pic.twitter.com/YWgsTrPohX

#Padres defeat #Mets 6-0 — first time they’ve won with me inside #PetcoPark since June 18, 2010 when they beat the #Orioles.

JULY 20

–Why yes, I did attend mass at the legendary Mission San Diego de Alcala, founded in 1769 by Junipero Serra. #Vacation pic.twitter.com/tfjzFeiOJg

–Take that as a reminder why nobody takes a #Padres no-hit attempt seriously until game reaches ninth. #SanDiegoDoesntDoNoHitters

–Hard to believe #VacationSanDiego ends tomorrow. Why does time fly so fast when you’re on vacation? #NotFairAtAll

JULY 21

–This can’t be real — @AlaskaAir sends email NOW that flight will depart 3 1/2 HOURS LATE. When confirming, it lists my scheduled (cont)

–flight of 2:55 still. My flight number (3483) is not listed ANYWHERE on @AlaskaAir website. Do they have nobody who updates website? (cont)

–Knowing when your flight departs is kind of important @AlaskaAir … or did Russell Wilson need the plane for himself?

–I avoided #Southwest & picked a nonstop flight on #Alaska to avoid travel issues and what do I get — travel issues! … #VacationSanDiego

–End result — I have 3 1/2 hours of extra time to spend in #SanDiego … better than an airport delay in Boston, Washington or Jacksonville.

–My view of downtown #SanDiego from Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma. pic.twitter.com/B73GPHETK7

–The last of five outstanding pieces of halibut at Point Loma Seafoods. Scrumptious. #VacationSanDiego pic.twitter.com/GD34abyBCY

–Have reached the airport — way early so my mom doesn’t have to drive in 5 o’clock traffic. #VacationSanDiegoNearsAnEnd

–Finally landed in #Boise — 3 hours, 43 minutes later than scheduled. #VacationSanDiegoOver

–So the robber didn’t break in & turn on my air conditioner after all — 82 degrees and like a sauna in my place. #VacationOver #BackInBoise

JULY 22 UPDATE

–It must be noted that Customer Care at has given me a $100 travel voucher due to Monday’s travel nightmare.

I simply don’t understand there not being a tribute to Tony Gwynn during Tuesday’s All-Star Game telecast.

The midsummer classic is always a good time to reflect on the history of the game and it seems odd that Fox wouldn’t have planned some type of quick remembrance for the legendary former star of the San Diego Padres.

The eight-time batting champion – and 15-time All-Star – died last month at the age of 54. How quickly Major League Baseball forgets its stars, huh?

Judging from social-media accounts, there are people all around the country upset or miffed about this. So don’t look at this at some kind of San Diego thing.

We are talking about one of the all-time great hitters to ever step on the diamond. An icon who was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and known for being a first-class representative of baseball.

Wasn’t expecting a big ceremony or something, but it certainly isn’t too much to expect Fox to throw in a quick 10-second tribute and move back into the flow of the game. Maybe even say one less sentence about Derek Jeter and include ONE about Gwynn.

Fox is a network that certainly does a lot of wimpy, ludicrous things during its baseball telecasts so I suppose I shouldn’t be overly surprised.

Regardless, the lack of a tribute for Gwynn is a big swing-and-a-miss for both Fox and MLB.

Tony Gwynn arrives in heaven

Posted: 06/17/2014 in baseball
Tags:

tony.gwynn.heaven

Wish I knew who to give credit to per this animation because it is all kinds of awesome.

 

Tony Gwynn helps an ailing Ted Williams throw out the first pitch at the 1992 All-Star Game in San Diego.

Tony Gwynn helps an ailing Ted Williams throw out the first pitch at the 1992 All-Star Game in San Diego. Gwynn passed away Monday at age of 54 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

I have no problem admitting this – I am crying right now.

Complete with tears streaming down my face.

Tony Gwynn, the best player in San Diego Padres’ history, is dead at age 54 after a bout with cancer.

Gwynn had all but disappeared from public view earlier this year after his cancer flared back up so it was clear his health had taken a downturn. I even sent a text to my youngest brother a couple months ago saying that Gwynn might die before Jim Kelly, the Buffalo Bills quarterback fighting a public bout with cancer.

But that didn’t make the actual word of his death any less shocking.

Gwynn won eight batting titles and finished his career with 3,141 hits and a .338 average. His nickname was Mr. Padre and his personality endeared him to everybody.

In an era of spoiled athletes, Gwynn was the every-day guy who got along with everybody. Well, everyone but Jack Clark and since Clark was a jerk of the highest order, there’s no fault in that.

Gwynn’s passing certainly makes it clear that life is unfair. He was the baseball coach at San Diego State and still had a lot to give to the younger generation. It is hard to believe that the baseball Gods in the sky need him up in the heavens this badly.

People in San Diego first learned of Gwynn as a college basketball player at San Diego State – he had a big afro while becoming the school’s all-time assists leader and ate an abundance of Filet-O-Fish sandwiches at McDonald’s – and had no clue he was even good at baseball until he was drafted by the Padres on the same day the San Diego Clippers took him in the NBA Draft.

Didn’t take long after Gwynn reached the majors to know there was something special going on. He sprayed line drives all over the field and easily sent bouncers through the 5.5-hole into left field.

The Padres had been a franchise of mostly nothingness until Gwynn arrived and he led them to the only two World Series in franchise history. He hit a memorable homer off the façade in Yankee Stadium in the second one back in 1998.

I will always wonder what might have happened in 1994 if a baseball strike didn’t end the season early. Gwynn was batting .394 when play was halted and had been in a season-long groove and was robbed of his best chance at a .400 season.

Gwynn became San Diego State’s baseball coach while I covered the San Diego State athletic program and our professional relationship was a bit interesting.

Most of the time he was terrific to deal with but I had to go toe-to-toe with him a few times as the only reporter willing to ask him tough questions. He could be hard to deal with after a frustrating loss and I will never forget the ridiculous chewing out I received from him near the first-base line on the University of San Diego baseball field when I raised a subject he was trying to avoid.

But the other side of the equation was this: There were several times when I showed up in his office on a couple minutes’ notice – try doing that with an egotistical football coach – and he’d fill up my notebook for a half-hour before baseball practice started. Sometimes he would be eating lunch and he’d try to yank my chain and then bust out his familiar laugh.

And you know, when I called him on his cell phone, he nearly always returned the call. Promptly.

I remember him being frustrated that my newspaper didn’t allow me to cover more San Diego State baseball games and it allowed me to come up with this catchy retort:

“Most people would like to see more of Tony Gwynn – Tony Gwynn would like to see more of me.”

The first part of that sentence now rings more true than ever. The greatest baseball player in Padres history and most beloved athlete to ever play in San Diego is gone way too soon.

And there’s no shame in crying about that.