Happy Gwynn Day

Today, on the 9th day of May in the year 2013, Mr. Padre himself, Tony Gwynn, turns 53 years young.

Fro_Gwynn

When I was a kid Tony was hands down my favorite player. To this day I still giggle like a school girl every time Tony is on my TV, because I like that guy and respect him so damn much. People often ask me, why was he my favorite player? Is it because he’s a Padre? Is it because he was really good? As a kid those things didn’t matter that much to me. Sure, they played a factor in it but kids don’t know undying team loyalty. I was a Padres fan and rooted for them all the time but I also loved Bo Jackson, Will Clark and Ken Griffey Jr. Yeah I knew Tony’s stats inside and out and saw all the bold numbers on the back of his baseball cards indicating that he was a League Leader, so I knew he was “pretty good”. But the #1 reason why he was my favorite player was because of how he treated the fans.

I often went to card shows when I was young and sometimes got autographs from players. Among the many players that I saw signing, one guy stood out to me and that was Tony. Despite having extremely long lines Tony would always stop and talk with each person that approached his table. Other ballplayers would keep their head down, not say a word and just sign away. You could hear Tony’s laugh on the other side of the building. Others walked around like robots. Most players would cut off the signing after a set amount of time. Tony would stick around until every single person in line got their autograph. He made me feel like he was my buddy as opposed to a professional ball player and I liked that.

One day, around 2005 or 2006, I was at my local Wal-Mart. I was just randomly walking by when I noticed a line and a table set up. Low and behold Tony was signing there that day. I had nothing for him to sign and it was before the smart phone era, but I didn’t need an autograph or picture, I just wanted to say hi so I waited in line. As I finally approached the table he had a pen in hand and was ready to sign something for me. I told him I didn’t have anything for him to sign and that I just wanted to say hi. He had a shocked look on his face at first and then a big smile took over and we chatted for a while. He mainly jokingly ribbed me for being in a punk rock band, but I think he thought it was a breath of fresh air that someone just wanted to chat. Much like how I saw him when I was a kid.

So with that I say Happy Birthday to one of the greatest players and one of the greater human beings to ever play the game. Today should be a National Holiday. So Happy Gwynn Day and here’s to many more Tony!

 

Let’s hear some of your Tony Gwynn stories in the comments section and the one that I like the most will win this awesome Russian Nesting Doll set of The Gwynn. I’d prefer to hand it off during a game, but if you are an out of towner feel free to share your story and if it’s REAAAAALLLLY awesome I’ll break down and ship it.

Tony Gwynn Russian Nesting Dolls

Tony Gwynn Russian Nesting Dolls

SDPads1 of RJ’s Fro can often be found causing trouble wherever he goes. I Tweet. I book the Face. I even have plussed the Google once or twice.

You are encouraged to comment using an exisitng Twitter, Facebook, or Google account. Upvote comments you find helpful, and only downvote comments that do not belong. The downvote is not a 'disagree' button.

  • Tim Stoops

    Happy Birthday Tony Gwynn! Some of my earliest memories of Mr. Padre include thinking it was so cool that the team had rhyming outfielders, and getting my first Gwynn autograph at a JC Penney signing event. Might as well pick up some socks too! Later in his career, I caught a foul ball off his bat which he eventually signed at a Barnes & Noble event.

    Please take me out of the running for the nesting dolls. I already have a set signed by Mr. Padre himself. I recently took the little one with me to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.

    Good luck to the contestants and congrats to the winner!

  • Dis

    Due to the schedule re-arrangement of the 2001 season, I was lucky enough to be present (with pretty much everyone else who reads this) at Gwynn’s final game. Having grown up as a fan completely in the Gwynn era (born 86), watching the Rockies give him extra room at the 5.5 hole so he could try to leg out one last single was special, even if he still ended up hitting the ball right at the SS. It got a little dusty in the stadium, and watching him take in the scene in his final AB still ranks as one of my favorite Padres moments.

    • Tim Stoops

      I think I was too high up in the Murph to see the Rockies give him that extra room. I do remember he hit the first pitch, almost as if he knew there was a long post-game ceremony coming and he didn’t want people to be up too late.

      Whether that’s the real reason he was first-pitch swinging, his consideration for others is legendary. This reminded me of the Celebration 3,000 game where there was a lengthy pre-game ceremony. When Gwynn finally spoke, the first thing he said was “I want to apologize to the Marlins for this thing taking so long.” His last game in San Francisco, the Giants did a small ceremony and let him speak. Gwynn deflected attention from himself and reminded everyone in attendance that another great baseball player in the home dugout, Eric Davis, was also retiring and deserved special acknowledgement. Class.

      • Dis

        My memory might be making it up, but I swear the hole at 5.5 got a step or two bigger for him.

  • Those are some pretty awesome stories below. I was a very young padre fan when Tony was at his height but he was and still is my favorite padre. I am pretty certain he always will be. The ceremony for his 3,000 hit was indeed very special. Tony has such a contagious smile, has so much class and has done SO much for San Diego. They call him Mr. Padre, well deserved, but really, he should be Mr. San Diego. He is iconic, a fantastic baseball player and I will never forget when he teared up during the celebration. It made me appreciate ballplayers and know they are much like the rest of us. Bravo Tony! I miss seeing you on the field.

  • My husband is a huge Tony fan. So much so that our 12 year-old’s middle name is Anthony, we have a brick out at the statue at Petco, and our 4 year-old can identify Tony from a picture. The little man has never even seen Tony play!!! My husband probably has more Tony stories than I can count. He also used to stay up past his bedtime, under the covers with a transistor radio listening to the games. His dad would find out and would not be happy. All for the love of Tony!!!

  • LynchMob

    I started playing Rotisserie in 1984 … my best friend, who lived in San Diego (and I did not) gave me a tip that this young Tony Gwynn was a lock to one day win batting titles … alas, I just did not comprehend how that was possible, and I passed on getting him in that auction …

    In about 1997 time frame, it became obvious to me (and my friend) that Tony would be a HOFer, and we committed to being there … and then, in 2007, we did it … we made the trek to Cooperstown! It was a blast to connect with a few Padre fans that I’d gotten to know via Ducksnorts (including the Son of a Duck’er himself 🙂 ) …

    I, too, already have my set of nesting dolls … an unused ticket stub from the game he got his 3000th hit (I just called the box office and bought one, while the game was still going on, and they mailed it to me 🙂 ) … and hundreds of his cards … and thousands of memories …

  • Ahh one of my first memories of baseball.

    It was either the 94 or 95 season. I was a young kid with my dad and we were in the stadium before the game, and Tony happened to be around signing stuff. It was a HUGE line and my dad knew we probably weren’t gonna make it in time before Tony would have to leave.

    So my dad grabbed my hand and went to the front of the line. He knew Tony was my hero and I would’ve done anything to even be near him. My dad says “Mr. Gwynn, I apologize for cutting but my son needs to meet you.”

    I was starstruck. I don’t even remember saying a word, but I remember what Tony said almost word for word: “Kid, your dad must love you a whole lot to hold up the line like this” and shook my hand. I still have the picture my dad took of us meeting to this day and take it with me wherever I go.

    Happy Birthday, Tony.

  • So many Gwynn moments, how does one choose to start? I suppose atthe beginning, my very first memory, not just for baseball, but for life; the reason I am always a Padres, and more specifically a Gwynn fan.

    1984, I was a three year old kid living in the small town of Yuma, AZ, spring training home of your San Diego Padres. I had a seat on the dugout and as the players were walking in, I was asking each of them for a ball. I don’t know how many players just stepped down into the dugout, but enough that I know I was getting discouraged. Finally, Mr. Gwynn came through. I asked him and he said “One Moment, Kid” Sure enough, he rolled out a ball. For the next 9 years, I had the opportunity to have several players sign that ball, but never for Gwynn, until an autograph show at a local car dealership. I waited for several minutes, and when I got to him, I shared the story of how he gave me the ball. He seemed in legitimate awe and nostalgic over the names of those that had also signed that ball, before signing it him self. I’ve never let anyone else sign that ball since.

    I followed his career closely. The only milestone moment I got to see in person was hit number 2000. The Padres had recently moved on from Yuma (nbd to most of you I’m sure) and in protest, our family decided to root for the rockies. The Rockies were playing the Padres and unbeknownst to us, Gwynn was on the verge of 2000. The excitement of being there made us ditch our ROckies hats and Jackets and reaffirm our support for 19, and for the Padres.

    His career was fun to follow. Scoring the winning run and playing in all of the 1994 All-Star game in Pittsburgh. The Ted Williams-Tony Gwynn moment in 1999. The Home Run in Yankee Stadium in the 1998 World Series. Moments etched into memory, full of Joy.

    Last season one one of my trips to San Diego, I was hanging out in the park at the park, when Gwynn joined the set near the statue in his honor. After he was done, several kids and kids at heart lined up to get an autograph and picture from him. I waited and when there were no more kids, I got in line too, but let any kids pass in front of me. They deserved the opportunity more than I did. I got to meet my childhood hero one more time. I told him again about the ball, and he acted as if he remembered it after asking me to tell him where he was when he gave it to me. I had answered Yuma, and he wanted more specifics..dugout? batting cage? That he still took the time to talk and take a picture again, echoes the point of RJsFro- He truly is a classy gentleman who deals with the fans like so few others. I know I’ve shared these memories before, but frankly, I will always feel the urge to share them. They mean that much to me. Thank you Tony, and Happy Birthday. May 9th will forever be Tony Gwynn day to me.