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Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn loses cancer battle at age 54

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

One of baseball’s good guys is gone.

San Diego Padres legend Tony Gwynn, a member of the 3,000-hit club and a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2007, died Monday after batting cancer. He was 54.

Nicknamed “Mr. Padre,” he was an All-Star in 15 of his 20 big-league seasons in which he hit .338 and won eight National League batting titles — all with the Padres. While his career average ranks 20th in MLB history, he also was a five-time Gold Glove winner playing outfield.

“Major League Baseball today mourns the tragic loss of Tony Gwynn,” said MLB Commissioner Bud Selig in a statement. “The greatest Padre ever and one of the most accomplished hitters that our game has ever known, whose all-around excellence on the field was surpassed by his exuberant personality and genial disposition in life. … For more than 30 years, Tony Gwynn was a source of universal goodwill in the National Pastime, and he will be deeply missed by the many people he touched. On behalf of all of our Clubs, I extend my deepest condolences to Tony’s wife Alicia, their son Tony Jr. of the Phillies, their daughter Anisha, the Padres franchise, his fans in San Diego and his many admirers throughout Baseball.”

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In past interviews, Gwynn attributed his cancer — which he had been fighting for several years and more than a dozen surgeries — to his admitted addiction to smokeless tobacco.

“Of course it caused it,” he told ESPN.com, “I always dipped on my right side.”

On cardboard, Gwynn was an accessible and collectable superstar. He appears on 8,846 different cards in the Beckett.com database (click here for a checklist or OPG) and they are valued at more than $122,550 excluding rarities. He appears on 2,748 different game-used memorabilia cards and was a steady signer through the years with 1,684 different autographs.

His Rookie Cards appear in the four 1983 releases — Topps, O-Pee-Chee, Donruss and Fleer — with his Topps and O-Pee-Chee cards the most in-demand at $25 or less before the news. His other two RCs typically sell for $15 (Donruss) and $12 (Fleer).

After retiring from baseball in 2001, he had worked as the baseball coach at San Diego State where he was an alum — playing basketball and baseball — and coached the likes of Stephen Strasburg in recent years. The school’s baseball stadium was named after him in 1997.

Gwynn is survived by his wife, Alicia, and two children — a daughter, Anisha, and his son, Tony Gwynn Jr., who is a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazines. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

12 Comments

Dan

Gwynn was everything I want to believe is true about baseball. Fan friendly+class+talent, in my mind, Gwynn had no peers – well maybe Musial.

Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink
Dan

I was a student at SDSU while Gwynn was coaching the Aztecs. Through the intra-campus mail, I sent him a picture that I had taken of him years earlier through. He signed it and sent it back with a hand written note thanking me for my support, and his admiration for those who pursue higher education. Sad, sad day in the world of baseball.

Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink
Dan

Anyone else remember the industry commercial “Molitor? I’m worth two Molitors, AND a Jim Abbott.” I wonder if that’s on YouTube.

Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink
Larry

RIP, to a very humble and great man

Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink
Richard

Sad. Back in his playing days he was just one of those guys you could count on.
Gwynn would get batting title, Henderson would steal the bases, Ozzie would rob players with his defense,
and Ryan would mow them down. At least this is how I remember it. :-)

Posted June 16, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
Jordan

Tony was one of my favorites ever since I read about him in the April 89 issues of SI for Kids. His dedication to the art of hitting was amazing. I never got to see him play, but I was very fortunate to be at his Hall of Fame induction in 2007. Baseball truly has lost one of the good guys.

Posted June 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
phillies_joe

I am a confessed homer when it comes to the game on the field. However, Tony was a player I really didn’t root whole-heartly aginst, just wanted him to get his hit’s aginst the team he was playing the next series. Didn’t work out that way much, but I accept greatness for what it is, so I just sat back and admired.

More awesome as a person than a player IMO…..R.I.P. Mr. Gwynn.

Posted June 16, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink
Rick

Everything about Gwynn was sweet. Now go out and buy at least 12-15 of his topps rc.

Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:08 pm | Permalink
Rick

OOOHHHH. RBI Cru walks into a show. Avaiator sunglasses on (like it might have been cool a lil bit in 1999) His gang. posse, entourage, or overall gang of tools.

Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:12 pm | Permalink
Badger

this is a slap in the face to everyone who thinks and says “everything happens for a reason”

Posted June 17, 2014 at 10:42 am | Permalink
Greg

Yes Dan he was a first class act. It’s funny you mention that commercial, I do remember that. I wish I could have met him before he passed. He will be greatly missed. R.I.P. Tony Gwynn

Posted June 17, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink
TS

Tony Gwynn was a friend to all card collectors through active involvement in identification of his cards that were fradulently autographed. If you have even one autographed card in your collection and treasure its authenticy, you should remember Tony Gwynn by buying one of his cards this week.

Posted June 18, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

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