Tony Gwynn life and biography

Tony Gwynn  picture, image, poster

Tony Gwynn biography

Date of birth : 1960-05-09
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Sports
Last modified : 2010-05-04
Credited as : Baseball player, San Diego Padres, Major League

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Anthony Keith Gwynn (born May 9, 1960 in Los Angeles, California) is a former right fielder in Major League Baseball, statistically one of the best and most consistent hitters in baseball history. He played his entire 20-year career (1982–2001) for the San Diego Padres. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 9, 2007 and was inducted on July 29. He is the first National League player born during the 1960s to earn the honor (Kirby Puckett was the first American Leaguer). He batted and threw left-handed.

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).

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.

Gwynn's 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 batter's box--and then it's just about seeing the ball and hitting it. The biggest thing is being consistent--consistent 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 Gwynn's 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 Gwynn's goal throughout his career, then he has been wildly successful.

Gwynn's 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 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 State--baseball, 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.

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 league's 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 Gwynn's 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 Gwynn's two-run double in the seventh inning turned out to be the series-winner for the Padres. Though Gwynn's 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.

From 1985 on, Gwynn's 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 Gwynn's 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 Musial's .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 Gwynn's 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, Gwynn's average had plummeted to .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 Winfield's 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, Gwynn's 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.

Gwynn's 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.

The 1994 season was perhaps the most bittersweet year of Gwynn's career. Despite the best batting average in the majors since Ted Williams's .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. Gwynn's 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 father's 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 couldn't attend the funeral even after being asked to be there by Show's wife. In a 1994 interview with Sport's Barry M. Bloom, Gwynn described his feelings going into the 1994 season: "It's the first (season) I've gone into without my dad.... It's been tough, especially when I'm by myself and have time to reflect. I can focus on baseball like I always have, but during the course of the day, there's always a time when I'm 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. Focussing 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, 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 Player's 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 it's all said and done you can look back and say, 'Hey, I gave it a great run,' or 'Hey, I didn't,' 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 it's over." In retrospect, he says, the 1994 season does not seem like some absurd joke--a 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 post-season. 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. Gwynn's 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 Today's Jill Lieber: "When it's all said and done, all the batting titles don't mean a thing if you don't win.... If I hit .400 on a last-place club, who cares? Baseball's not about All-Star Games, Gold Gloves or leading the league in hits. The bottom line is winning. Everywhere I go, people say, 'He's a great hitter. He's 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 won't change anybody's 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 in--all 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.

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.

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