Tony Gwynn, a stocky dynamo of the San Diego Padres who ranked among the most successful hitters of all time, with 3,000-plus career hits and the highest single-season batting average since Ted Williams in 1941, died June 16 in Poway, a San Diego suburb. He was 54.
The cause was salivary gland cancer that Mr. Gwynn attributed to decades of chewing tobacco, according to Major League Baseball.
He had been on medical leave since March from San Diego State University. He had been head baseball coach at the university since his retirement in 2001 after 20 seasons with the Padres. At San Diego State, he helped guide the collegiate career of Stephen Strasburg, now an ace pitcher for the Washington Nationals.
Mr. Gwynn, a 15-time all star who was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility (2007), was regarded foremost as a stellar contact hitter. Starting in 1983, he went on to a remarkable streak of 19 consecutive years with a batting average exceeding .300 — a major league feat second only to the Detroit Tigers’ Ty Cobb, who had retired in 1928.
A left-handed hitter, Mr. Gwynn had a .338 lifetime batting average and reached the elite mark of 200 hits in a season five times. He never struck out more than 40 times in a season. In 1984, when he led the National League in hitting, he struck out a mere 23 times in 675 plate appearances.
San Diego Padres' Tony Gwynn hits his 3,000th career hit in the first inning against the Montreal Expos on Aug. 6, 1999, in Montreal. Catching for Montreal is Chris Widger, umpire is Bob Davidson.
He also racked up 3,141 career base hits and won eight National League batting titles — tying a record set by Honus Wagner of the Pittsburgh Pirates almost a century a earlier and bested only by Cobb (who had 12). Mr. Gwynn also received five Gold Glove Awards for his defensive excellence as an outfielder.
As reported by the Washington Post