Tony Gwynn, a baseball legend past away earlier this week. Few people can argue the point he was one of baseball’s best pure hitters ever.
If you base a pure hitter on batting titles, only two players in modern times were as good a pure hitter as Gwynn were Ted Williams and Rod Carew. Williams won six battling titles in his career for the Red Sox, while Carew took the top spot in hitting average seven times during his career with the Twins and Angels.
Gwynn won eight batting titles while competing for his hometown San Diego Padres. The mark tied him for the second most battling titles all time with Honus Wagner, the former Pirate, who won eight crowns. Wagner’s last crown came in 1911. Only the great Ty Cobb won more batting crowns in his career with eleven titles. Cobb won those eleven titles in a twelve-year period from 1907-1919 with only Tris Speaker beating out Cobb in the 1916 season.
In the last 100 years of baseball, Tony Gwynn won more batting titles than any ballplayer.
Gwynn hit .394 during the 1994 season that was cut short by a players’ strike. The walkout negated a chance for Tony to become the first player since Ted Williams in 1941 to bat over .400 for an entire season. Only two other modern players besides Gwynn came close to that magic .400 mark. George Brett hit .390 for Kansas City in 1980 and Carew wacked the ball around for a .388 average in 1977 for Minnesota.
Tony had a .338 career batting average one of the best of all time. He belted 3,141 hits during his 19 seasons. Gwynn was selected for Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2007 during his first year of eligibility.
Yet, the numbers only tell a portion of the Tony Gwynn story. He spent his entire career with his hometown San Diego Padres. In today’s modern world, seldom do you see a player of Gwynn’s ability compete for only one team during his entire career. The last player to do it that was a superstar was Cal Ripkin for the Baltimore Orioles.
Gwynn had his chances to move elsewhere, but he was a California kid. He felt loyal to his community and his team. Tony was simply put “Mr. Padre.”
Gwynn’s efforts paid off because he was rewarded with playing on the only two Padres’ teams to make the World Series in 1984 and 1998. Tony hit .500 in the 1998 series against the Yankees. His efforts did not help as New York won the fall classic in four straight.
Once he left the playing field, Gwynn stayed in the game he loved as a manager of San Diego State.
He was a giant as a player and will be considered one of the best all time. Tony Gwynn will be missed.