Once upon a time, sports fans had their heroes. Many were considered such because of their prodigious athletic feats while the sports journalists of their era overlooked all sorts of things these heroes did that would have raised eyebrows if not hostility.
Now, sports phenomenons are viewed with a spyglass for indiscretions or even politically incorrect statements or bad behavior. Those who are on “our” team are reprieved, forgiven; those on the opposition teams are lambasted, reviled.
There are others in this guy’s category: a tremendous athlete in his sport who loved the game because he played it right and was a good guy on and off the field.
Granted, i was privileged to watch him for most of his career and consequently find him a treasure. i will not argue about “greatest pure hitter” because there are so many who rival him in that category and the state of the game and the sophistication have changed, making such comparisons ridiculous.
But folks, Tony Gwynn was a treasure, not just for baseball fans in the Southwest corner, but for the game of baseball and for all of us to admire and learn from on how to go about our business, our passions, and our relationships with everyone else.
He also was loyal. He turned down numerous more lucrative offers to remain a San Diego Padre for his entire career. This by the way gained him the eternal ire of the MLB union more focused on their members making money than the spirit of the game. When he retired he went back to his alma mater to coach the San Diego State Aztec baseball team.
Man, i would like to see him at bat one more time. i recall a moment in the NL playoffs and actually found the moment on Youtube when Joe Morgan, a great hitter himself for the Big Red Machine of the 60’s, the color commentator caught the brilliance of Gwynn when he hit a double off the Big Unit Randy Johnson, the 6-10 lefthander with a wicked fastball and an even nastier slider which Gwynn promptly deposited down the left field line to propel the Padres over the Astros in an NL division playoff game in 1998.
So if you have a minute or two and want to watch not only greatness but a good man do his thing, here’s something i tripped upon today: