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Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn passes away at age 54


Tony Gwynn, who banged out 3,141 hits during a Hall of Fame career spanning 20 seasons with the San Diego Padres, has died of cancer at age 54, it was announced Monday.

The lefty-swinging Gwynn, nicknamed Mr. Padre, had a career .338 batting average, won eight National League batting titles and played in the franchise's only two World Series.

He died early Monday morning at Pomerado Hospital in Poway, California, while surrounded by his family, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced.

"Major League Baseball today mourns the tragic loss of Tony Gwynn," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement Monday. "The greatest Padre ever and one of the most accomplished hitters that our game has ever known, whose all-around excellence on the field was surpassed by his exuberant personality and genial disposition in life.

"... For more than 30 years, Tony Gwynn was a source of universal goodwill in the National Pastime, and he will be deeply missed by the many people he touched. On behalf of all of our Clubs, I extend my deepest condolences to Tony's wife Alicia, their son Tony Jr. of the Phillies, their daughter Anisha, the Padres franchise, his fans in San Diego and his many admirers throughout Baseball."

Gwynn had been signed to a one-year contract extension as the baseball coach at San Diego State on June 11. He had been on medical leave since late March while recovering from cancer treatment. He took over the program at his alma mater after the 2002 season.

He had two operations for cancer in his right cheek between August 2010 and February 2012. The second surgery was complicated, with surgeons removing a facial nerve because it was intertwined with a tumor inside his right cheek. They grafted a nerve from Gwynn's neck to help him eventually regain facial movement.

Gwynn had said that he believed the cancer was from chewing tobacco.

In a rarity in pro sports, Gwynn spent his entire 20-year career with the Padres, choosing to stay rather than leaving for bigger paychecks elsewhere. His terrific hand-eye coordination made him one of the game's greatest contact hitters. He excelled at hitting singles the other way, through the "5.5 hole" between third base and shortstop.

He was a 15-time All-Star, reached the coveted 200-hit mark in a season five times, and his .338 career average was 18th-best all-time.

He hit safely in 1,838 games -- which amount to 75.3 percent of those in which he played. In addition, Gwynn had 951 multi-hit games, reached hitting streaks of at least 10 games on 33 different occasions, and he only had 34 multi-strikeout games. In fact, he only had one career game with three or more strikeouts.

He batted .300 in each of his last 19 seasons, a streak second only to Ty Cobb.

Gwynn was inducted into the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2007. His No. 19 was retired by the Padres in 2004.