clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tony Gwynn has passed away

The Hall of Famer was 54.

And then there's perspective. No matter what was making you surly this morning, this punch to the heart trumps it. Tony Gwynn, one of the greatest baseball players in history, passed away far, far too young.

We like to have fun with the Padres here, disparaging them as often as the forced rivalry dictates. But Tony Gwynn was off limits, always off limits. There was no currency in poking at him; everyone loved him. Like Vin Scully, Gwynn wasn't just a Hall of Famer, he was a litmus test for when you can stop listening to the opinions of a Giants fan. Don't like Tony Gwynn? That's a real hot take, mister, and I'll be sure to think about that as I'm crawling out the bathroom window to get away from you.

Except that situation never really came up. I don't know if I've ever, ever, ever heard someone say, "Ugh, I hate Tony Gwynn." I don't know if anyone's ever thought it. And that's for someone who hit .351 in his career against the Giants in 878 at-bats. Anyone else on the planet doing that, and he's a reverse Bonds for Giants fans, a magnet for loathing, both rational and irrational. Anyone else hitting .351/.399/.468 against the Giants would have the word "hate" featured prominently in the word cloud.

Instead, it was "Oh, no, not Gwynn again." Or, "dang it, you can't be serious." There was no getting angry at the man. It was like being angry at the sun on a hot day. A Tony Gwynn hit was part of the natural order of things. Giants fans accepted that around 1983 or so.

Plus, he was so danged nice.

I don't even have a specific Gwynn memory, a shake-your-fist moment that stands above the others. They all blend together, a melange of wonder and terror. He was always batting, always at the wrong time. He helped the Giants lose more games over the years than almost any other player, yet he was still one of my favorite players in baseball history. He was one of your favorite players in baseball history. Think about the different variables that have to be in place for that combination to happen. We won't see it again.

In Gwynn's last at-bat against the Giants, a week before he retired, he struck out. That's a shame. It should have been a single up the middle, a line drive off a pitcher who was doing anything to prevent a line drive. And it should have made us say, "Man, that guy is unreal." Because he was. He always will be. Whenever I get jealous that other people got to watch Hank Aaron or Walter Johnson or Josh Gibson or Stan Musial, I'll have to remember that I got to watch Tony Gwynn, one of the best things about watching baseball in the '80s and '90s.

Rest in peace, Mr. Gwynn.