It was shocking to hear that Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres died at the age of 54. I knew that he was sick, but this seemed very sudden and he was far too young. As a lifelong baseball fan, it was sad to hear about one of the greatest hitters ever passing away. I didn’t get to see him play much, but it is still such a huge loss.
Really quick, let me drop some knowledge on you about what it was like to be a baseball fan in the 1970’s and 1980’s. There were no innovations, the MLB Network and MLB TV, where you can watch pretty much any game at any time. ESPN was around, but not nearly to the extent that it is now. We lived out in an area where we couldn’t get cable. If you wanted to watch baseball on the national stage, you were pretty much left with Monday Night Baseball on ABC and NBC’s Saturday Game of the Week. That was about it.
As a result, being in an American League city the National League stars seemed almost mythical and larger than life because we just didn’t see them that much. The All-Star game was pretty much it. So, I had heard of Gwynn, but didn’t know much about him until I got older.
Quite simply, he was probably the best hitter since Ted Williams, and we won’t see his like again. He probably could have hit .400 and would have if it hadn’t been for the strike in 1994. In his 20 year career, he struck out about 400 times. That’s incredible. I hate to say it as a Boston Red Sox fan, but he was more consistent and a better hitter than Wade Boggs, which I feel was one of the closest comparisons. I would have loved to see Gwynn at Fenway Park hitting balls all over the place.
One thing that I always liked about Gwynn was his voice. I know this sounds crazy, but to me he always sounded like director Ron Howard. He had that same sort of affable, down-home charm by all accounts, which shows the type of man that he was.
Williams was the greatest hitter of all time. Sorry, Mr.Boggs, but Mr. Gwynn was No. 2 and the best hitter in recent memory. Rest in peace and thank you for allowing us to see your amazing talent and being such an amazing human being.