A phone call woke me up Monday morning, it was my Father calling to tell me Tony had passed. I’m grateful I found out the way I did, and I think it’s fitting that the man who introduced me to Tony as a 5 month old in 1984 was the one who broke the news about his death.
I spent the day listening to and sharing my own stories about Tony. My story, like many, begins as a young fan. My parents brought me to meet Gwynn at the Baseball Cards Plus store in Clairemont. He was signing behind a long row of tables, and when my folks wanted to take a photo they tried arranging me on my side of the table so we could both be seen. Tony would have none of it, interrupting the autograph session and walking around the long row to meet me. That’s how much Tony Gwynn cared.
The more I talked with folks and listened, a common thread became apparent. Tony Gwynn constantly went out of his way to make fans feel special. As one of the greatest players to play the game, people would love him even if he didn’t. But he did care about people. A lot. The heartache ripping through this city from non-fans and hardcore baseball fans alike and personal stories of who he was are testament to that.
I got a message from a Giants fan college buddy too. He wanted to know how I felt about the fact that while Tony is a lifetime Padre, he’s beloved by baseball fans across the country. To me, and I suspect most Padre fans, this is a great source of pride. While we might not have a World Series title or a history of winning baseball, we have Tony to represent us. The man loved universally across the sport, the answer to the question “Who is your favorite player not on your team” is ours. We couldn’t be more proud.