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“He was 19 to the end”

Jun 17, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT


Two Tony Gwynn remembrances worth reading this morning, both by writers with personal connections to Gwynn. One is from Tom Friend, the former Padres beat writer. The other from Tyler Kepner of the New York Times.

Lots of players are said by writers to be nice guys or classy, but Kepner notes an instance when Gwynn literally helped change Kepner’s life by virtue of his friendliness and generosity. Kepner was something of a boy wonder reporter when he was a teenager, publishing his own magazine and getting press passes. Once, when covering a Padres game, this happened:

One time we spoke, I was wearing a Vanderbilt golf shirt. Gwynn noticed the logo and asked if I went there. When I said yes, he lit up. The Padres beat writer Buster Olney, of The San Diego Union-Tribune, also went there, Gwynn said excitedly. “You’ve got to meet him!” he said . . . When our interview ended, he went back to the clubhouse, found Olney and brought him to the dugout to meet me. A few years later Olney was writing for The New York Times, and he recommended me for a job. Gwynn had set me on my career path.

Friend gives us a tear-jerking moment from Gwynn’s final months:

In late April, I surprised him at the hospital. He was in a wheelchair. His hair was fully gray. He couldn’t open his right eye. He could only halfway open his mouth. He was on oxygen. The purest hitter of our generation was dying . . . That day in the hospital, I would have done anything to see a young Tony Gwynn again. And then I looked down at his feet. He was wearing his old baseball shower shoes. On them was his scribbled number: 19. He was 19 to the end.

Just, wow. Both are excellent reads. Do check them out.

  1. icanspeel - Jun 17, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    I normally don’t get too sad when someone famous passes away, but Tony Gwynn had touched the hearts of so many people, me included it’s hard not to feel sad. He will be forever remembered.

    • renaado - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:02 AM

      “He will be forever remembered.”


  2. sjs1959 - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    It’s too damn early in the morning to start crying, but those are great pieces for a great player and a greater human being.

  3. greymares - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Absolutely a great fabulous ballplayer but that won’t change the fact that he died prematurely from tobacco use. most can’t learn to be a great ballplayer from him. but many can learn that the tobacco use has to stop. I know it’s not easy i was lucky enough to quit 25 yrs ago on my 22nd try. Please keep trying to void your life of tobacco.

  4. hojo20 - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    Gwynn wasn’t 19 Forever. Check out his uniform number on the Topps Rookie card.

  5. pisano - Jun 17, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    The best pure hitter I’ve ever seen, not many could do what he did consistently for 20 years. R.I.P

  6. bfunk1978 - Jun 17, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    Too much dust in this room, really, I swear.

  7. natstowngreg - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Guess this is as good a place as any for this Adam Kilgore piece on Stephen Strasburg and Tony Gwynn, his college coach and “father figure.”

  8. sandpiperair - Jun 17, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    I’ve been reading Tony Gwynn stories since his death. The thing that hits me hardest is what a shame it is that sometimes it’s not until a man dies that you find out what a great person he was.

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