Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tony Gwynn

As a baseball fan growing up in Pittsburgh and then attending college in New York, I never really appreciated Tony Gwynn. He was a guy who won batting title after batting title, but since he played on the West Coast, I rarely if ever saw him and the Padres play. When I started participating in fantasy baseball, people drafted Gwynn knowing that he would help you with batting average and give you solid, yet not spectacular, home run, RBI and stolen base numbers. (He was never on my team, which may be why I have never won.) However, players like Barry Bonds, Fred McGriff, Jeff Bagwell, David Justice, Matt Williams, Moises Alou, Reggie Sanders and Andres Galarraga were all more coveted in the auction draft than Gwynn.

It wasn’t until I moved to San Diego in 1997 that I realized the greatness of Tony Gwynn. In his career, Gwynn won eight batting titles, made 15 All-Star teams, won five Gold Gloves and had over 3,00 hits. Gwynn was a professional hitter. He studied tape of himself and opposing pitchers before anyone else did, and near the end of his career, often discussed hitting with Ted Williams. (How great would it be to overhear those conversations?) Sorry to get all baseball geeky here, but look how Gwynn did against the best pitchers of his time:

Gwynn vs. John Smoltz: 30 for 65 (.462 average)
Gwynn vs. Nolan Ryan: 19 for 63 (.302)
Gwynn vs. Greg Maddux: 39 for 91 (.429)
Gwynn vs. Tom Glavine: 29 for 93 (.312)
Gwynn vs. Doug Drabek: 23 for 49 (.469)
Gwynn vs. Orel Hershiser: 25 for 78 (.321)
Gwynn vs. Pedro Martinez: 11 for 35 (.314)
Gwynn vs. Mike Scott: 27 for 85 (.318)

Off the field, Gwynn received the Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award in 1999 for combining sportsmanship and community service with excellence on the field and created the Tony & Alicia Gwynn Foundation which has funded numerous worthy organizations and endeavors.

I’m writing about Tony Gwynn for several reasons. First (as you can tell), I really like him as a player and person, even though I’ve never personally met him. Second, even though he was just elected into the Hall of Fame, I still don’t think he gets the credit that he deserves. Some of this may be due to living in the Washington DC area where all of the baseball coverage has been about Cal Ripken’s election into the Hall of Fame. The other part involves the national coverage of his election. Mark McGwire not getting voted into the Hall of Fame is just as big if not bigger than Gwynn’s election. At least I know the people of San Diego realize the greatness of Tony Gwynn.

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