The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

June 16, 2014

Tony Gwynn, sweet-swinging 'Mr. Padre,' dies at 54

(Continued)

Gwynn befriended Williams and the two loved to talk about hitting. Gwynn steadied Williams when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the 1999 All-Star Game at Boston's Fenway Park.

Gwynn retired after the 2001 season. He and Cal Ripken Jr. — who spent his entire career with the Baltimore Orioles — were inducted into the Hall of Fame in the class of 2007. A wreath was being placed around his plaque in the Hall of Fame on Monday.

Also in 2007, the Padres unveiled a bronze statue of Gwynn on a grassy hill just beyond the outfield wall at Petco Park. While Gwynn was still with the Padres, then-owner John Moores donated $4 million to San Diego State for a new baseball stadium that bears the Hall of Famer's name.

Gwynn was a two-sport star at San Diego State in the late 1970s and early 1980s, playing point guard for the basketball team — he still holds the game, season and career record for assists — and outfielder for the baseball team.

Gwynn always wanted to play in the NBA, until realizing during his final year at San Diego State that baseball would be the ticket to the pros.

"I had no idea that all the things in my career were going to happen," he said shortly before being inducted into the Hall of Fame. "I sure didn't see it. I just know the good Lord blessed me with ability, blessed me with good eyesight and a good pair of hands, and then I worked at the rest."

He was a third-round draft pick of the Padres in 1981.

After spending parts of just two seasons in the minor leagues, he made his big league debut on July 19, 1982. Gwynn had two hits that night, including a double, against the Philadelphia Phillies. After doubling, Pete Rose, who had been trailing the play, said to Gwynn: "Hey, kid, what are you trying to do, catch me in one night?"

Gwynn also is survived by a daughter, Anisha.

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