Volume 92, Issue 24
Friday, October 16, 1998
Gwynn finally gets what he deserves
After 16 years of exemplary service, San Diego Padre outfielder Tony Gwynn is finally getting a shot at adding the final stripe to his uniform and there is nobody in Major League Baseball more fitting of this honour.
When the San Diego Padres beat the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday afternoon, the smile on the face of outfielder Tony Gwynn could have lit up the Christmas tree in Times Square. Finally, after 14 long years of waiting, the Padre superstar is going to get another shot at the elusive ring which will complete his illustrious career.
When the Padres chose Gwynn in the third round of the 1981 Free Agency draft, they didn't know he would become the purest hitter in the game since the 1950s, when Ted Williams donned the Boston Red Sox jersey. In addition, the Padres couldn't have dreamed that his loyalty would match the likes of sidekick Tonto's devotion to the legendary Lone Ranger.
Out of 16 seasons, all with the Padres, the 38-year-old Gwynn has hit over .300 in 15 of them. He only failed to reach the three dollar mark in his first season, but averaged an incredible .339 over his career, including an astonishing .394 in 1994. He has won eight National League batting titles and is 28th on the all time hit list with 2,928, second among active players behind Paul Molitor.
The five foot 11 220-pound dynamo has appeared in the all-star game 14 times, but it is the World Series title which has unfortunately eluded this model of consistency for his entire career. Although the Padres made the fall classic in 1984, they were steam-rolled by the champion Detroit Tigers in five games. The team hasn't had a solid contender since until this year.
Gwynn's career proves that baseball is truly a team game. If it wasn't, Gwynn would not have had to wait for so long to return to the World Series.
Throughout all the horrible seasons and ugly Padre uniforms, Tony Gwynn stood behind his organization, which is a testament to his greatness. He could have switched clubs for a number of reasons money, a chance at a World Series or even just to improve his profile as the most underrated player in baseball.
Never has Gwynn ever publicized any contract squabbles or complained about the lack of talent the Padres put on the field. He does what his employer pays him to do hit the baseball. And he is by far the greatest at it in the game today.
The stocky outfielder, whose compact build has left many in awe of his incredible consistency, has left a mark in San Diego which is unparalleled in almost all other baseball cities.
When Tony Gwynn takes to the field against the Yankees, his thoughts will not be the same as when he was a 24-year-old, wide-eyed youngster in 1984, who must have dreamt the Padres would be World Series contenders every year.
Instead Gwynn, aware of his age, will have to view this title-shot as possibly one of his last. However, there will be no panic or anxiety, but rather the smooth even kilter which has epitomized his entire career. Nothing means more to Mr. Padre than having another chance at the October finale.
There is nobody more deserving.
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