John Smoltz shares funny story of how he surrendered against Tony Gwynn
John Smoltz shared a funny story Wednesday about how he surrendered to the legendary Tony Gwynn.
Gwynn, a Hall of Fame player, batted a ridiculous .338 for his career. That is the highest career batting average for a player since Ted Williams, who retired after 1960.
Gwynn was such a good hitter that he even dominated the Atlanta Braves’ famed trio of Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who all made the Hall of Fame.
During the 8th inning of Game 2 of the NLCS Wednesday between the Philadelphia Phillies and Gwynn’s former team, the San Diego Padres, Smoltz began talking about how great Gwynn was.
Gwynn batted a combined .394 against the Braves’ trio and only struck out three times in 270 plate appearances against them.
Loving John Smoltz’s on-air hat tip to the late Tony Gwynn. I knew Gwynn did well against that Braves Hall of Fame ‘90s rotation, but I had no idea the numbers were this ridiculous. He was the best. RIP. #Padres pic.twitter.com/qeXfEEJjbR
— Sid Lipsey (@sidlipsey) October 20, 2022
Gwynn’s dominance of Smoltz was particularly notable. He batted .462 with 10 extra-base hits and two home runs against Smoltz. He batted .429 against Maddux and never struck out against “The Professor.” Smoltz struck out Gwynn once and Glavine did it twice.
Gwynn was so good that Smoltz said he resorted to a knuckleball just to try anything against the Padres legend.
“It was the ultimate challenge,” Smoltz said on the FS1 telecast of Game 2 of facing Gwynn. “Greatest hitter of our generation, left us way too soon unfortunately. Laughed, smiled, giggled when he knows he’s got you.
“It got so bad I threw him a knuckleball. And he just laughed at me. Took it and laughed at me.”
Gwynn was a humble competitor, but he had to laugh at Smoltz trying a knuckleball against him. Smoltz wouldn’t have tried that pitch unless he felt he had nothing better to get Gwynn out.
Gwynn won 8 batting titles during his career. He was the last player to make a true run at .400 when he batted .394 over 110 games during the strike-shortened 1994 season.
Gwynn died at age 54 in 2014. He was a true treat to watch. Following his death, we compiled several great stories about Gwynn’s leegndary hitting abilities. You can read them here, including one from Maddux.