He’s a Hall of Famer. Bigger than life, that’s number 19, Tony Gwynn.
From the minute he stepped on the baseball diamond in San Diego, on July 19, 1982, he owned it. He was 0-for-3 going into the 8th inning that night, against the Phillies before he got a double, his first hit as a major league ball player. Three thousand, one hundred and forty more hits followed that one, in Gwynn’s20 year career with the San Diego Padres. He’s one of just 26 players to belong to that elite 3,000 hit club.
Watching Tony Gwynn swing the bat was pure sweetness. The late, great, Ted Williams called him “the Picasso of modern-day hitters.” His .338 lifetime batting average, the highest since Williams’, speaks volumes.
Tony played in two thousand, four hundred and forty games and you know what else he did in those games? He chewed tobacco. That’s a fact that did not make it on his Cooperstown plaque.
And tonight, Tony Gwynn is in a San Diego hospital, recovering from 14 hours of surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from inside his right cheek. Cancer. Cheek. Chewing tobacco. This is Tony’s second go-around with this cancer but this time doctors had to do a tricky nerve graft after they removed the entire tumor. They cut out a facial nerve and replaced it with a nerve from Gwynn’s shoulder.
According to Tony’s wife, Alicia, doctors “got it all.”
For at least 20 years, this super star took a pinch, put it between his gum and right cheek, stepped into the batters box and killed the ball.
He beat the averages most seasons, collecting 8 National League batting titles along the way.
Tonight, he’s facing new odds, new averages and a very fierce opponent.