The best, must-read stories about Tony Gwynn
Tony Gwynn dying on Monday was a huge blow to the Padres franchise, Major League Baseball, the city of San Diego, and sports fans as a whole. Tony was one of the best hitters of all time, and he had a special personality to match his incredible talent.
As a way of honoring and preserving the legacy of the man we all loved so much, below are some of the best stories about Tony Gwynn as a ballplayer.
We don’t have all the best stories about Tony, so if you know of any, please please please notify us via email or by leaving a comment on this post. Our aim is to make this as complete as possible.
Below are some of the best tales about Tony Gwynn that all baseball fans and TG lovers will adore.
Longtime Padres player and coach Tim Flannery recalls how Tony Gwynn called his shot in a rain-postponed game against the Reds.
[Flannery] recalled a road game at Cincinnati that was hit by a deluge of rain, a game the Reds were winning 2-0 when Gwynn stepped up with two runners on base.
For all the good it would do, a left-hander was summoned from the Cincy bullpen, whereupon the rain resumed in buckets before he could deliver a pitch to the plate. The game was suspended at that point, to be resumed at that exact point the next day.
“Because of all the rain delays, it’s now about 11:30 at night,” said Flannery. “Tony and I are walking back up the tunnel at Riverfront. He said, “Hey, Flan, I want you to be ready tomorrow, because this guy’s gonna throw me a first-pitch slider, I’m gonna hit it into the left-center gap, it’s gonna score two and we’re gonna be tied.’
“Sure enough, next day, first-pitch-slider, boom, left-center field, both runners socre, tie game. Tony looks at me and smiles. I’ll guarantee you this: Before he went to bed that night, that lefty didn’t know he was gonna throw that. But Tony knew.
“Amazing. Just an amazing, amazing player.”
How Tony Gwynn once beat Omar Daal and his little ****** slider
So if you asked him a question about an at-bat, or something that he was doing at the plate, Tony would pull you into a side room and run back the video and narrate what was on the screen for you. Once, he mashed a pivotal hit against the Dodgers, and afterward, he explained to me exactly what he had said to a teammate in the on-deck circle — that Omar Daal would try to beat him with his little (expletive) slider and then he would turn on it and drive it into the gap.
Tony Gwynn won 8 batting titles in his career, but the story of how he beat out Will Clark over the last weekend of the season in 1989 might be the best.
Gwynn finished at .336 and Clark at .333. Tony won it by getting 3 hits in the final game of the season, while Clark had 1. Their two teams faced each other that weekend.
When the Giants arrived at the stadium Friday, Clark led the race, .333 to .332. Clark got two hits and Gwynn one Friday night. Saturday, Gwynn had three hits and Clark one, but Gwynn still trailed, .334 to .333.
Sunday, Gwynn singled in the first, grounded to first in the third, then singled in the fifth and again in the eighth.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” Gwynn said. “I knew in order to win it I had to get one more hit than [Will Clark] today. I ended up winning it, but he had a good year too. He’s going where I want to go (the playoffs).
“Those guys over there (the Padre pitchers) knew exactly what was on the line,” Clark said. “I saw two and oh changeups, two and one curveballs and three and oh sliders.
“I lost to the best. Tony Gwynn goes on the field and gets it done. A lot of this game is luck. The ball I hit the worst today was my only hit. But Tony does it every year, and he does it consistently every year. That’s why he’s one of the best in the game.
“He’s not only a great athlete, he’s a student of the game.”
Tony Gwynn owned Greg Maddux, and Mad-Dog knew it.
Greg Maddux faced Tony Gwynn 107 times, walked him intentionally 7 times, and never once struck him out. Gwynn hit .415 off of him.
Here’s Maddux talking about the importance of changing speeds vs. having velocity because he says no player can tell you how fast a pitch is going … except for one.