Anthony Keith Gwynn, Sr., better known as Tony Gwynn, was a baseball pro who played for the San Diego Padres. He was born on May 9, 1960 in Los Angeles, California to Charles and Vendella Gwynn. The family moved to Long Beach, California when he 9 years old. He had two brothers, an elder brother who became a teacher and a younger brother who followed in Tony’s footsteps to become a baseball player. Tony’s parents were honest, hardworking folk who taught their children good principles and encouraged them to persevere and work hard. During his childhood, Tony was both a baseball and a basketball fan and often went to watch his favorite players at Major League Baseball (MLB) games.
He attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School and then San Diego State University. During his first year of university, he only played basketball as that was the sport he initially intended to pursue. However, one of his friends convinced the baseball coach to try out Gwynn for the baseball team, since there were openings. During his university career, Gwynn played three seasons of baseball and four seasons of basketball. After leaving college, he joined the Minor Baseball Leagues for two years between 1981 and 1982, after being selected in the draft by the San Diego Padres. He was also selected for basketball by the NBA team the San Diego Clippers, but he chose baseball, citing it as a practical decision based on his height and physical attributes. His career with the Minor Leagues was successful, and he earned the most valuable player honors during his tenure.
In 1982, Tony Gwynn moved to the major leagues. His first game was against the Philadelphia Phillies in which he scored a double. He started recording his performances at bat so he could review his technique, which proved to be a very effective method to improve his game. His first full season was in 1984, the same year that San Diego won their first National League (NL) West title. Gwynn was chosen to start in his first All Star Game in which he won his first batting title. He finished third in the voting for the MVP (Most Valuable Player) Award which was a big achievement for someone so young.
He soon began making more appearances in games, with an all time high of 160 games in 1986 in which he scored 100 runs for the first time. He also set his career high records for doubles, home runs and steals. In the 1989 season, he faced some injuries to his right toe and tendon but he insisted on playing until his manager forced him to sit it out for two games. He also faced some salary issues, and wanted to renegotiate his contract based on lucrative deals that other players like Jack Clark were getting, but his request was denied. He had some issues with his teammates who accused him of being selfish in his batting style, and playing only to maintain his batting average, rather than to help his team win.
Gwynn formally retired in 2000 and was one of the only players to spend his entire career with one team. The San Diego Padres retired his jersey number 19 upon his retirement. He had always been one of the most well liked players in the league, with a humble, pleasant and friendly personality. He was inducted into the Padres Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. A bronze statue of him was erected in Petco Park in the same year. Tony Gwynn was one of the most talented hitters of his generation and was voted an All-Star 15 times. After retiring from professional baseball, he became the head baseball coach at San Diego State University for 12 seasons. He died on June 16, 2014 due to cancer at the age of 54.