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Gwynn, Tony

Tony Gwynn

1960-

American baseball player

Tony Gwynn is one of the greatest players and most prolific hitters in major league baseball history, ranking with Ted Williams and Stan Musial for batting average. Finishing his twenty-year career with the San Diego Padres at age forty-one in 2001, he recorded a .338 overall average, with 3,141 career hits, putting him in sixteenth place for the most hits in major league history. He also

won five Gold Glove Awards for his outfield skillsthe most in San Diego Padres historywas voted a starter in the All-Star Game eleven times, and won eight National League batting championships and seven Silver Slugger Awards. Gwynn is known for videotaping his hits and studying them to improve his technique. Gwynn is expected to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Young Athlete

Anthony Keith "Tony" Gwynn was born May 9, 1960, in Los Angeles, California, the son of Charles (a warehouse manager) and Vendella (a postal worker) Gwynn. He grew up with his two brothers in Long Beach, California, where his dad played baseball with the boys in the backyard, using cut-up socks as balls. Young Tony also had a best friend in elementary school, Alicia Cureton, who became his sweetheart in high school and his wife in 1981.

Gwynn graduated from Long Beach Poly High School in 1977. His success in basketball and baseball won him a sports scholarship to San Diego State University (SDSU) in 1978. There he played only basketball in his freshman year but went on to play baseball with the SDSU Aztecs as well. During his sophomore year, he began using the 32-inch, 31-ounce bat that was his favorite throughout his professional career. Gwynn was named third-team All-American by Baseball News in 1980. In 1981 he batted.416 and was named National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) All-American. On June 10, 1981, Gwynn was drafted by both the San Diego Padres and the San Diego Clippers basketball team. He chose the Padres.

"Mr. Padre"

Gwynn started his professional career in the Padres' farm system in Washington, Texas, Hawaii, and Nevada before being brought up to San Diego on July 19, 1982. He debuted against the Philadelphia Phillies' champion hitter Pete Rose , who was so impressed with Gwynn's hitting that he said, "What are you trying to do, catch me after one night?"

During the 1982 and 1983 seasons, Gwynn suffered the first of several injuries that would cause him to miss games during his career. In August 1982 he broke his left wrist while catching a fly ball and then broke his right wrist playing winter baseball in Puerto Rico. By mid-1983, however, he was back with the Padres and finished the season with a .309 average.

In 1984, Gwynn took the first of his National League batting championship titles, with a .351 average and 213 hits. He came in third in voting for the league's Most Valuable Player (MVP), even though the Padres lost the 1984 World Series to the Detroit Tigers.

Chronology

1960 Born May 9 in Los Angeles, California
1977-81 Plays point guard for San Diego State University basketball team
1979-81 Plays baseball with San Diego State University Aztecs
1980 As Aztec, bats .423, with six home runs
1981 As Aztec, bats .416, with 11 home runs; is drafted by San Diego Padres pro baseball team and San Diego Clippers pro basketball team on same day (June 10); marries Alicia Cureton (they will have two children, Anthony II and Anisha Nicole); begins career with Padres with Walla Walla team in Rookie Northwest League, where he is named Most Valuable Player
1982 Plays first major league game, on July 19; breaks wrist and misses three weeks' play
1983 A second wrist injury stalls season, but Gwynn finishes batting .309, with team-record 25-game hitting streak
1984 Leads team to National League Championship Series against Chicago Cubs
1985 Injures wrist again, but makes All-Star team for second time
1986 Wins first of five Gold Glove Awards; ties a major-league record with five stolen bases on September 20
1987 Hits .370, with Padres record 218 hits, highest batting average since Stan Musial's .376 in 1948
1988 In spite of two injuries, has 18-game hitting streak and finishes with .318 average
1989 Has another All-Star, Gold Glove season, in spite of wrist and Achilles tendon injuries; files for bankruptcy, citing problems caused by his accountant
1990 Fractures index finger and misses 19 games but still bats above .300; tensions develop between him and some Padres team members, and a Gwynn figurine is found in the dugout with its arms and legs torn off; negotiates a five-year, $16.25 million contract with Padres
1991 Loses 21 games to arthroscopic surgery on left knee, bats above .300
1992-93 Has two more knee surgeries but records 2,000th hit in 1993; father dies in winter of 1993
1994 Has difficult year after loss of his father; stops training after fourth knee surgery; friend Eric Show dies of drug overdose; Major League Players Association strike halts season on August 12, as Gwynn is near to hitting .400 for season
1995 Bats .368 and has award-winning season; receiving honors for both baseball and charitable work
1996 Injures right heel and misses 56 games but bats .353 and hits a two-out, two-run eighth-inning single that he calls biggest hit of his career
1997 At age 37, has finest season of his career, batting .372; Padres extend his contract through 2000; Tony Gwynn Stadium opens as new home of the San Diego State University baseball program
2001 At age 41, announces retirement from professional baseball on June 28, effective at the end of the season; is named head baseball coach at San Diego State University (SDSU) on September 20, effective June 1, 2003he will work as a volunteer coach during the 2002 school year; begins building Church's Chicken franchise restaurants through his company Gwynn Sports

Awards and Accomplishments

The Lou Gehrig Memorial Award is presented annually to the major league player who best exemplifies the leadership and character of the late Lou Gehrig, Hall of Fame first baseman
1980 Named third team All-American by Baseball News
1981 Named College All-American and first team All-Western Athletic Conference outfielder; named Most Valuable Player in Rookie Northwest League
1984, 1986-87, 1989, 1994 Named to Sporting News National League All-Star Team
1984, 1987-89, 1994-97 National League Batting Champion
1984-87, 1989-96 Voted to All-Star Game
1984, 1986-87, 1989, 1994-95, 1997 Given Sporting News Silver Slugger Award
1984, 1986-88, 1994-95, 1997 Voted San Diego Padres' Most Valuable Player
1984-99 Named to National League All-Star Team
1986-87, 1989-91 Gold Glove Award for outfield
1995 Branch Rickey Award for most community service in major league baseball; San Diego Padres' Chairman's Award for community service
1997 San Diego State University dedicated new baseball stadium in Gwynn's name
1997-99 San Diego State University recipient of Roberto Clemente Award for combining excellence in playing with community service and sportsmanship
1999 Recipient of Phi Delta Theta's Lou Gehrig Memorial Award
1999 Inducted into World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame
1999 Recorded 3,000th career hit on August 6

Tony on Tape

From very early in his career, Gwynn videotaped all of his at-bats and then studied them religiously to improve his nearly perfect technique. This practice began in 1983 when he asked his wife to tape a game during a time he felt his hitting was off. After watching the tape, he saw the error he was making. He quickly corrected it and relied on the tapes for the rest of his career, accumulating a library of them. This earned him the nickname "Captain Video." He once told Ebony magazine, "I do all of my preparation before I get into the batter's boxand then it's just about seeing the ball and hitting it." Gwynn favored hitting the ball in what he calls the 5.5 Hole, the gap between the shortstop and third base.

During the early 1990s, Gwynn became close friends with the great hitter Ted Williams, who became a mentor to him and spoke of Gwynn as the finest pure hitter of his generation. Williams suggested that Gwynn, a left-handed hitter, like himself and the great Stan Musial, should be the successor to his own title as the greatest living hitter. Some sportswriters argued that Musial should inherit the title, but Williams, who died in July 2002, favored Gwynn.

Winning through the Pain

Gwynn kept up his award-winning playing after the 1984 seasonhis batting average never dropped below.300 between 1984 and 1994, and he continued to win batting titlesalong with the love of the San Diego fans. He also won his first Gold Glove Award for defense in 1986. He had an exceptional .370 batting average in 1987, with a Padres record of 218 hits.

Gwynn enjoyed eating and developed a bit of a rotund physique, but the weight gain did not slow him up on the diamond. What did continue to plague him, however, were injuries. In 1988 he had surgery on his left hand and was injured in a fall. After getting off to a slow start, however, he finished the season batting .313 and won another National League batting title. In the 1989 season he injured his Achilles tendon and had another wrist injury but still managed to take home the Gold Glove and be named All-Star. That year was difficult in another way as well: in spite of his high salary, he had to file for bankruptcy because of what he called improper practices by his accountant. In 1990 he fractured an index finger, and in 1991 he had a conflict with some team members, who hung a figure of him in the dugout with arms and legs removed. He also had the first of four knee surgeries that would cause him to miss games through 1994. In spite of the lost time, he continued to play brilliantly and achieved his 2,000th career hit in 1993.

The year 1994 was perhaps the most painful of all for Gwynn, however. He had lost his father in the winter of 1993, and it was difficult for him to go on without the man on whom he had so depended for advice and support. Another knee surgery and the loss of a former teammate, Eric Show, to a drug overdose, brought Gwynn down even further. He stopped training and canceled public appearances. He soon pulled himself together, though, and concentrated on his game. In August, as Gwynn was hitting .475, the Players Association went on strike and called a halt to the games.

Career Statistics

Yr Team Avg GP AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB
SD: San Diego Padres.
1982 SD .289 54 190 33 55 1 17 14 16 8
1983 SD .309 86 304 34 94 1 37 23 21 7
1984 SD .351 158 606 88 213 5 71 59 23 33
1985 SD .317 154 622 90 197 6 46 45 33 14
1986 SD .329 160 642 107 211 14 59 52 35 37
1987 SD .370 157 589 119 218 7 54 82 35 56
1988 SD .313 133 521 64 163 7 70 51 40 26
1989 SD .336 158 604 82 203 4 62 56 30 40
1990 SD .309 141 573 79 177 4 72 44 23 17
1991 SD .317 134 530 69 168 4 62 34 19 8
1992 SD .317 128 520 77 165 6 41 46 16 3
1993 SD .358 122 489 70 175 7 59 36 19 14
1994 SD .394 110 419 79 165 12 64 48 19 5
1995 SD .368 135 535 82 197 9 90 35 15 17
1996 SD .353 116 451 67 159 3 50 39 17 11
1997 SD .372 149 592 97 220 17 119 43 28 12
1998 SD .321 127 461 65 148 16 69 35 18 3
1999 SD .338 111 411 59 139 10 62 29 14 7
2000 SD .323 36 127 17 41 1 17 9 4 0
2001 SD .324 71 102 5 33 1 17 10 9 1
TOTAL .338 2440 9288 1383 3141 135 1138 790 434 319

Back on the playing field in 1995, Gwynn had another great year, winning the league batting title and his eleventh All-Star Game designation, as well as being named Padres MVP for the sixth time. He played most of the 1996 season with a torn Achilles tendon but still batted .353, logged his 2,500th hit, and made the play that put the Padres into the playoffs. After the season ended, he had surgery to repair the torn tendon.

Fully recovered in 1997, at age 37, with a little gray in his beard, Gwynn had probably his best season with the Padres. He hit his personal best in home runs, seventeen, had 119 RBIs, batted .372, and won his eighth league batting title. The Padres renewed his contract through 2000.

In 1998 the Padres went to the World Series for the second time in Gwynn's career. They lost to the New York Yankees even though Gwynn had eight hits and a home run in sixteen times at bat. On August 6, 1999, he collected his 3,000th hit. Only Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoie achieved the milestone in fewer games than Gwynn had.

Retirement from Professional Baseball

Although he became a free agent in 2001, Gwynn stayed on with the Padres to finish out his career. After 3,141 hits and finishing with a batting average of .338, he retired from the Padres at the end of the 2001 season. His teammates presented him with a motorcycle during a ceremony at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, as some 60,000 fans cheered him goodbye. After his twenty years with the Padres, he said, "I feel I've done all I can do as a baseball player."

Tony Gwynn is a student of baseball, a hitter who never stopped trying to perfect his swing, to know his pitchers, and to help his team win. He holds five of the top eleven batting averages for a single season compiled since the end of World War II and tied with Honus Wagner for the most National League batting titles (eight). He is also an affable, easygoing person, always attentive to the media and the fans. Tony and Alicia Gwynn are famous for their charitable work with young people. Tim Kurkijan of Sports Illustrated once called Gwynn "probably the most popular and successful player in San Diego sports history" and "one of baseball's most good-natured people."

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: c/o San Diego State University Department of Athletics, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, California 92182-4313. Online: http://www.goaztecs.ocsn.com.

SELECTED WRITINGS BY GWYNN:

(With Jim Geschke) Tony!, Contemporary Books, 1986.

(With Jim Rosenthal) Tony Gwynn's Total Baseball Player, St. Martin's Press, 1992.

Where Is He Now?

Upon retirement in October 2001, Tony Gwynn was selected head baseball coach at San Diego State University (SDSU), his alma mater, which in 1997 named its new baseball stadium in his honor. He chose to serve one year as a volunteer coach before beginning a three-year contract term with the university. Gwynn called the coaching position "the dream gig for me."

During 2002, Gwynn moonlighted as a sports analyst for the ESPN television network. Tony and his wife, Alicia, also own Tony Gwynn Sports, and in 2000 the company bought 100 Church's Chicken restaurant franchises. They planned to build about seven stores per year, from San Diego to Bakersfield, California.

Tony and Aliciawho owns AG Sports, a company specializing in merchandising and graphic designhave continued their charity work. They routinely take disadvantaged children into their home, providing teens with job skills through Alicia's business. Their TAG Foundation supports a number of San Diego charities, including one that provides shelter for abused and abandoned children. Alicia told the Sporting News, "We both feel like we are blessed people and fortunate to be in the position we are in. We just try to do the right thing."

(With Roger Vaughan; foreword by Ted Williams) The Art of Hitting, GT Pub., 1998.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 18. "Tony Gwynn." Detroit: Gale Group, 1998.

Newsmakers, Issue 4. "Tony Gwynn." Detroit: Gale Group, 1995.

Who's Who Among African Americans, 14th edition. "Tony Gwynn." Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.

Periodicals

"Coaching at His Alma Mater." Jet (October 15, 2001): 50.

"Community Champions." Sporting News (August 2, 1999): 17.

Elfin, David. "Hometown Hero." Insight on the News (October 1, 2001): 28.

"A Final Goodbye." Jet (October 22, 2001): 55.

Hocker, Cliff. "Gwynn up to Bat at Church's Plate." Black Enterprise (November 2000): 30.

Other

Baseball-Reference.com "Tony Gwynn." http://www.baseball-reference.com/ (November 27, 2002).

Dutton, Bob. "Who Takes Position as Greatest Living Hitter after Williams?" Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. (July 7, 2002).

Eckhouse, Morris A., and James G. Robinson. "Tony Gwynn." Baseball Library.com. http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ (November 27, 2002).

Kawakami, Tim. "Ten Good Minutes with Tony Gwynn." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. (July 28, 2002.)

San Diego State University Athletic Department. "Aztecs Name Tony Gwynn Head Baseball Coach: Former SDSU Baseball and Basketball Star Returning to The Mesa." http://goaztecs.ocsn.com/ (September 20, 2001.)

The SportsCoach.com. "Tony Gwynn." http://www.baseballinstruction.com/ (December 12, 2002).

World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame. "Tony Gwynn." http://www.sportshumanitarian.com/ (December 12, 2002).

Sketch by Ann H. Shurgin

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Gwynn, Tony 1960–

Tony Gwynn 1960

Professional baseball player

At a Glance

The Origins of a Major Leaguer

Overcame Injuries

1994: A Turning Point

Sources

Tony Gwynn is known as one of the most prolific hitters in baseball history, and he did not achieve this status by accident. Gwynn videotapes every at-bat and after the game transfers the original video to another tape so that he can study his swing at home. He watches each tape to analyze and correct any fault that has crept into his batting stroke. Gwynn has created three categories to catalogue each time he comes up to the plate: good at-bats, at-bats which yielded hits, and swings which yielded hits. Gwynn even brings his video equipment on the road. At one time in his career, he brought 11 videos on the road to study his performance against each individual team in the National League (N.L.). Gwynn is often the first one to the stadium, searching for ways to improve one of the most technically sound swings in baseball.

Gwynns obsession with video review began when he called his wife from the road and asked her to tape his at-bats during one of his rare slumps. After watching the tapes, he was able to fix the problem easily. With this revelation a video fanatic was born. Gwynn told Walter Leavy of Ebony why all the pre-game work is important to him: I know my swing better than anybody, so I do all of my preparation before I get into the batters boxand then its just about seeing the bail and hitting it. The biggest thing is being consistentconsistent with your work ethic, consistent with your preparation, consistent with your approach. If you are able to be consistent, then you have a chance to be successful.

A look at Gwynns career statistics shows his unwavering commitment to excellence. In 16 seasons Gwynn has been the San Diego Padres all-time leader in batting average (.340), hits (2780), runs (1,237) doubles, triples, stolen bases, and runs batted in. In those 16 years Gwynn has been an All-Star 13 times, won eight N.L. batting titles, and won five Gold Gloves. He has batted over .300 for the last 15 straight seasons, has a .300 batting average against every team in the N.L., and has never finished lower than sixth in the N.L. batting race. If consistency has been Gwynns goal throughout his career, then he has been wildly successful.

Gwynns wife Alicia has always been an important part of his professional and personal life. He grew up with her in Long Beach, CA, playing baseball and racing home from elementary school each day. The two started

At a Glance

Born Anthony Keith Gwynn, May 9, 1960, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Charles (a warehouse manager) and Vendella Gwynn (a postal worker); Children;Anthony II and Anisha; Education: Altendfd San Diego state University.

Career: Drafted in the third round of the 1981 June free agent draft by the San Diego Padres;after the 1997 season Gwynn was the all-time Padres leader in batting average (.340), hits (2,780), runs (1,237), doubles (460), triples (84), stolen bases (308), and runs batted in (1973).

Awards: Eight N.L.batting titles; 13 N.L. All-star Games;five Gold Gloves; named to The Sporting News Silver Slugger Team seven times; 1995 Branch Rickey Award winner for top community activist in Major league Baseball.

Addresses: Home Ponway, CA; office -san Diego padres, 9449 Friars Rd, san diego, CA 921108-1771.

dating in high school and have been together ever since. Another major influence on Gwynn were his parents Charles and Vendella Gwynn. Both of them worked on separate schedules, so they were rarely home at the same time. They did have time to instill the values of hard work and dedication in the second of their three sons. These values helped him excel at two sports at San Diego Statebaseball, and the sport for which he earned a scholarship, basketball. Though he eventually chose baseball, he was still good enough in basketball to be drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers, an NBA franchise. His destiny, though, was with baseball and Alicia. In 1981 the two were married and he signed with the San Diego Padres after being drafted in the third round.

The Origins of a Major Leaguer

In 1981 Gwynn began his rapid ascent to the major leagues. He started his Padres career with Walla Walla, a team in the Rookie Northwest League. He was named the leagues MVP and was sent up to Amarillo where he batted .423 in the last 23 games of the season. In the next season, after playing 93 games for Hawaii, another Padre farm team, Gwynn was called up to the majors. On July 19, 1982, Gwynn played in his first major league game, knocking out two hits against the Philadelphia Phillies. His rookie season was stalled, though, after he broke his wrist diving for a fly ball and was out for three weeks. His 1983 campaign stated slowly after another wrist injury sustained during winter baseball. Gwynn struggled in the first part of his second year, but batted .333 in the final 62 games of the season and finished the year at .309, including a team-record 25-game hitting streak. The final part of the 1983 season provided a hint at what would be Gwynns breakout year in 1984. In his third major league season Gwynn won the N.L. batting title with a .351 average. He led the major leagues with 213 hits and led his team to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) against the Chicago Cubs. In the fifth game of the NLCS Gwynns two-run double in the seventh inning turned out to be the series-winner for the Padres. Though Gwynns team lost in five games to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, he batted .316 in ten post-season games. Gwynn was also voted into the All-Star Game, was chosen as a member of the Sporting News All-Star Team, and finished third in balloting for the N.L.s MVP Award.

Overcame Injuries

From 1985 on, Gwynns career was characterized by consistent excellence despite a series of debilitating injuries. In 1985 Gwynn injured his wrist again in a home-plate collision, but still managed to knock out 197 hits over the course of the season. He finished fourth in the N.L. batting race and make another appearance at the All-Star Game. The 1986 season brought another kind of milestone for Gwynn. He was recognized for his outstanding defense, winning the first Gold Glove of his career. He led the N.L. in total chances (360) and putouts (337). He was also elected to his third straight All-Star Game. The 1987 campaign was exceptional even for Gwynns remarkable standards. He hit .370 with a club-record 218 hits, including a .473 batting average in the month of June. His .370 average was the highest in the N.L. since Stan Musials .376 in 1948. In addition to his offensive excellence, Gwynn earned his second consecutive Gold Glove and another trip to the All-Star Game.

If 1987 was a season filled with glory, 1988 perhaps distinguished Gwynns character. He began the season recovering from surgery on his left hand and was then put on the 21-day disabled list after hurting himself in a May 7 fall in Pittsburgh. Because of these injuries, by June 3, Gwynns average had plummeted tò .237, a batting mark he could previously have reached with a whiffle bat. Gwynn responded to this low-point in his career by ripping off an 18-game hitting streak, hitting .406 during the month of July. Gwynn ended the season winning his second consecutive N.L. batting title with a .313 average, breaking Dave Winfields Padres team-hit record on September 17 with hit number 1,135.

With his fourth consecutive 200-hit season Gwynn won his third consecutive and fourth career N.L. batting title. Despite nagging Achilles tendon and wrist injuries in the latter half of the 1989 season, Gwynn won another Gold Glove and earned another trip to the All-Star Game. In the 1990 to 1993 seasons Gwynn continued with his steady excellence. In those four seasons Gwynn batted above. 300, was named to the All-Star Game four times, and won two Gold Gloves.

Unfortunately, Gwynns bad luck with respect to injuries also continued along with his on-field brilliance. In 1990 he missed the final 19 games of the season with a fractured index finger. In 1991 the season ended 21 games early for Gwynn after he was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. In 1992, he suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in the same knee and went under the knife for another arthroscopic surgery.

Gwynns season ended early for the fourth straight year in 1993, when he was again forced to have arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies in his left knee. Though his 1993 season ended on September fifth after he had appeared in only 122 games, Gwynn was able to achieve another significant milestone. He became only the 193rd player in major league history to record 2,000 hits.

1994: A Turning Point

The 1994 season was perhaps the most bittersweet year of Gwynns career. Despite the best batting average in the majors since Ted Williamss .406 mark in 1941, Gwynn suffered through some professional and personal difficulties. The 1994 season marked the first time he played baseball without the support of his father, who had died the previous winter. Gwynns father served as his sounding board through all the difficult times and injuries, even advising his son to leave the Padres after the team traded away every experienced player on the team except Gwynn. After his fathers death and his fourth knee surgery in as many seasons, Gwynn stopped his training and canceled his public appearances. After former teammate Eric Show died of a drug overdose, Gwynn couldnt attend the funeral even after being asked to be there by Shows wife. In a 1994 interview with Sports Barry M. Bloom, Gwynn described his feelings going into the 1994 season: Its the first (season) Ive gone into without my dad. Its been tough, especially when Im by myself and have time to reflect. I can focus on baseball like I always have, but during the course of the day, theres always a time when Im thinking about not being able to talk to, or not being able to see, my dad.

The 1994 season also began as a troubled one for the game of baseball. Because of the unsettled labor situation between the owners and the Major League Players Association, there was an air of dissention surrounding the season. Each side threatened to end the year early through either a strike or a lockout. Gwynn ignored the turmoil around him and within himself and launched one of the best seasons in major league baseball history. Focusing only on baseball, Gwynn won his fifth N.L. batting title with a .394 average. Even this elite accomplishment came with a bittersweet feeling. On August 12, 1994 the Players Association called a halt to the season while Gwynn was in the midst of his hottest month in the best season since 1941. Gwynn was hitting .475 in the month of August and would have needed just three more hits over the course of the whole season to hit .400.

Even though the strike interrupted a possibly history-making season, Gwynn still supported the Players Association. He told the Sporting News how he is able to remain philosophical in a game obsessed with statistics and magic numbers: My mom and dad always used to tell me the best approach is just be humble. Be humble, go on about your business, do what you got to do and, when its all said and done you can look back and say,Hey, I gave it a great run, or Hey, I didnt, or Hey, I fell short, but as long as you prepare yourself every day to go out there and give it your absolute best effort to get it done, you can look at yourself in the mirror when its over. In retrospect, he says, the 1994 season does not seem like some absurd jokea year in which the opportunity to achieve baseball immortality was pulled out from under him. Rather, this time of contradictions seemed like a beginning of an improbable run which would see Gwynn better his career batting average each season over the next three years.

In 1995 Gwynn won his sixth N.L. batting title with a .368 average. He was voted into his 11th All-Star Game and was the Padres MVP for the sixth time. Gwynn was also recognized officially for the first time for his charitable work. He won the Branch Rickey Award for being the top community activist in major league baseball. He also won the first Moores Award, the Padres community service award. These awards came after the creation of the Tony & Alicia Gwynn Foundation, which supports organizations which fight child abuse.

In 1996 Gwynn continued to post similar numbers even though he played with a season-long injury which was much worse than originally believed. In the first 13 games of the year, Gwynn was batting .462 when he injured his right heel on April 15. Gwynn was forced to miss a total of 56 games and his 12th All-Star Game, but still managed to put together another exceptional year even though he was unable to plant his right foot. Gwynn won his seventh career N.L. batting championship with a .353 average and was also one of only 71 players in major league history to collect 2,500 hits. Gwynn also made the play which put the Padres into the postseason. Gwynn called the two-out, two-run eighth inning single the biggest hit of his career.

After the season doctors operated on him, believing that his Achilles tendon was frayed. They found the tendon 30 percent torn. Gwynns post-season experience reminded him of the thrill of winning, which the Padres had experienced on all too few occasions. The man that Sports Illustrated called the greatest hitter since Ted Williams explained his views on individual accomplishments in an interview with USA Todays Jill Lieber: When its all said and done, all the batting titles dont mean a thing if you dont win. If I hit .400 on a last-place club, who cares? Baseballs not about All-Star Games, Gold Gloves or leading the league in hits. The bottom line is winning. Everywhere I go, people say,Hes a great hitter. Hes the guy who studies all those tapes Sure, the tapes help me do my job to the best of my ability. But, in terms of everyday life, my being the best hitter in baseball or hitting .400 will have a very minimal impact on people. It wont change anybodys life. And it helps to keep that in perspective.

The 1997 season began with Gwynn fully recovered from his injuries and able to drive the ball better than perhaps at any other time in his career. The Padres also showed their faith in him by extending his contract through the 2000 season. Though Gwynn will be forty by that time, he insisted that he will play past his current contract. At the age of 37 Gwynn put together what was arguably the finest season of his 16-year career. His 220 hits and .372 batting average led him to a record-tying eighth N.L. batting title and his fourth in a row. He also hit a personal best 17 home runs and 119 runs batted inall at an age when most baseball players are more concerned about their golf swing than their batting stroke. Despite his age and the accumulated wear and tear of 16 injury-filled seasons, Gwynn has proved not only that he is consistent, but consistently excellent.

Sources

Periodicals

Ebony, August 1997, p. 132.

Sport, September 1994, p. 26.

Sports Illustrated, July 28, 1997, p. 40.

The Sporting News, July 28, 1997, p. 8.

USA Today, April 30, 1996 from online source www.edu/~lkammerz/GwynnUSA.html.

Others

1998 San Diego Padres Media Guide, pp. 18, 33.

Michael Watkins

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Watkins, Michael. "Gwynn, Tony 1960–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1998. Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Watkins, Michael. "Gwynn, Tony 1960–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1998. Encyclopedia.com. (July 24, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2872000025.html

Watkins, Michael. "Gwynn, Tony 1960–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1998. Retrieved July 24, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2872000025.html

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