Congratulations Tony

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on July 29, 2007

Today, Anthony Keith Gwynn was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. "Mr. Padre" was the lone reason to watch an all-too-often inept baseball team growing up in San Diego. While others celebrated pennants and World Series titles, San Diegans turned out to see Gwynn stroke single after single through the 5.5 hole between the third baseman and the shortstop.

If you weren't going to see the Padres at the top of the National League standings, then it was a point of pride to see "TGwynn" at the top of the agate listing the players with the best batting average.

I wasn't much of a baseball player growing up. I certainly wasn't much of a hitter. Frankly, I wasn't much of a fielder either -- having caught far too many balls with my left eye. (In my defense, the third baseman had the sun behind him one time and the another time the ball hit a rock and jumped up and bit me.) But without Tony Gwynn, I probably never would've become a baseball fan. Without Tony Gwynn, there probably wouldn't be a Major League baseball team in San Diego today.

The San Diego Union-Tribune had a special section in today's paper which included this bit that made me chuckle and that I wanted to share.

1997

Larry Walker was an All-Star, a legitimate five-tool player, before he relocated from the Montreal Expos to the Colorado Rockies in 1995. But his numbers went off the charts in 1997, the year he compiled 409 bases, more than any player since Stan Musial in 1948, batting .366 and hitting 49 homers and driving in 130 runs to win the NL Most Valuable Player Award. But not the league batting title, the eighth and last of Gwynn's career as he hit .372. with a career-high 220 hits, 17 homers and 119 RBI.

Walker: “I've actually had people come up to me and say, 'You hit .366 one year and finished second? Who beat you?' I said, 'Who the (expletive) do you think beat me?' I could sit here for a long time and talk about his hits. Let's talk about his outs. That wouldn't take very long at all, so we could get this over real quick. How do you defend a guy like that? You just hope he hits it right to you. You see guys like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, the way they pinpoint their pitches? Tony did that with his flippin' bat, putting the ball exactly where he wanted to put it. There was one series that year when we were both getting up near .400. he came up to the plate and got a hit, I got up and got a hit. We never really talked about it, but you could see it going on. It's like we were matching each other. That was an honor for me.”

Despite their offensive output today, I think there's a very good chance that Gwynn would still have the highest batting average on the team.

So, Tony, here's a tip of the cap to you. It's been a pleasure.

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