Hall of Fame right fielder Tony Gwynn has lost his battle with cancer at the age of 54. One of the best hitters of my generation and of all time, Gwynn was every bit as good off the field as he was on it.
Gwynn was born in Los Angelas, California in 1960 and grew up in Long Beach. Basketball was his first love and upon entering San Diego State as a highly recruited point guard, he did not even play baseball his freshman year. If not for former Yankee Bobby Meacham, a fellow southern Californian and classmate of Gwynn's at San Diego State, Tony may have never even played baseball.
According to Wikapedia it was 1979 and freshman Bobby Meacham convinced the SDSU baseball coach to give Gwynn a look. Meacham had played against Gwynn in high school and convinced the coach to give him a tryout. It just so happened that two of the team's outfielders had been injured while riding bicycles when they were hit by a car. The rest as they say is history.
Gwynn would go on to become a two-sport star at SDSU and set the basketball record for assists in a game, season, and career. He attributed basketball to developing his baseball skills, saying the dribbling strengthened his wrists and helped him avoid what he called "slow bat syndrome". Gwynn was picked in the third round of the 1981 MLB draft with the 58th pick, coincidentally he was also selected by the then San Diego Clippers in the tenth round of the NBA draft.
Tony played 20 years for the San Diego Padres and retired in 2001 with 3,141 hits, spanning a career that also saw him win 5 Gold Gloves, and a record eight batting championships. He is one of 11 men to have 3,000 hits for the same team. Gwynn who had undergone surgery for the mouth in recent years as well as the salivary glands attributed the cancer to having dipped tobacco throughout his career. Tony Gwynn is survived by his wife Alicia Gwynn, and two children Anisha and Tony Jr.