by Roy Alan Firestone
I have been blessed and honored to have met some great people in sports and figures outside of sports. I would hard pressed to name a single human being who was as humble and kind hearted and jovial and self deprecating while at the same time as truly great in his profession as was Tony Gwynn. You could talk about the 8 batting titles, the .338 lifetime batting average, the 15 all star selections and of course the Hall of Fame induction (with Cal Ripken Jr. in 2007). You could point out that he was a magician with the bat. He batted .361 with 2 strikes in his career. If he went 0 for 1,000 he still would've had a lifetime .300 batting average. He barely struck out 40 times in any season. He was perhaps the generation's greatest pure hitter.
What I'd like to talk about is Tony Gwynn the person.
He had a laugh you could hear from a mile away, and he laughed all day long. He was wise and he was generous with his time. He spent hours talking to me and other sports people about hitting and about his late father and the lessons he learned. Tony was deferential. He talked about his wife Alisha like she was the"boss", and he loved his brother Chris and his beautiful children(Tony Jr. is also a major league player). One story I will never forget is the night Chris Gwynn(his little brother) had a pinch hit to beat Tony's Padres at Dodger Stadium. Never mind that both teams were in the pennant race. After the game, late after everyone had left, I saw big brother Tony walk into the Dodgers locker room and hug his brother saying"Chris, i just want you to know how proud I am of you". When I tell you that even now, I get choked up remembering that story. Tony Gwynn was the best hitter I ever saw in person, but he was about the best person I ever met in sports too. He always asked about my kids and always respected the game and what it gave him. He could have been a big league hitting coach, but he took a ton less money to coach at San Diego State, his alma mater.I join the rest of the game of baseball in mooring my old pal Tony.
The game lost a great great man. Humanity lost a greater person.
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