— SAN DIEGO (AP) — Tony Gwynn, the Hall of Famer with a sweet left-handed swing who spent his entire 20-year career with the Padres and was one of the game's greatest hitters, died of cancer Monday. He was 54.
Gwynn, a craftsman at the plate and winner of eight batting titles, was nicknamed "Mr. Padre" and was one of the most beloved athletes in San Diego.
He attributed his oral cancer to years of chewing tobacco. He had been on a medical leave since late March from his job as baseball coach at San Diego State, his alma mater. He died at a hospital in suburban Poway, agent John Boggs said.
"He was in a tough battle and the thing I can critique is he's definitely in a better place," Boggs told The Associated Press. "He suffered a lot. He battled. That's probably the best way I can describe his fight against this illness he had, and he was courageous until the end."
In a rarity in pro sports, Gwynn played his whole 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 had 3,141 hits, a career .338 average and won eight NL batting titles. He excelled at hitting singles the other way, through the "5.5 hole" between third base and shortstop.
Gwynn's wife, Alicia, and other family members were at his side when he died, Boggs said.
Gwynn's son, Tony Jr., was in Philadelphia, where he plays for the Phillies.
"Today I lost my Dad, my best friend and my mentor," Gwynn Jr. tweeted. "I'm gonna miss u so much pops. I'm gonna do everything in my power to continue to ... Make u proud!"