Gwynn: Mr. Hall of Famer

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A Resounding Tribute

Some 26 years after he was drafted in 1981, Anthony Keith “Tony” Gwynn was inducted into Major League Baseball’s shrine in Cooperstown, New York—The Hall of Fame. 

In front of a virtual sea of humanity, 21 year old Rhythm and Blues Base Hit Records recording artist Anisha Nicole, better known as Nee-Nee Gwynn and daughter of Tony and Alicia Gwynn sang the national anthem to open the Hall of Fame ceremonies that day, Sunday, July 29, 2007.

A relic of baseball’s dissipating yesteryear; Tony played with one lone franchise—Major League Baseball’s National League’s San Diego Padres’ baseball organization all of his major and minor league careers until 2001 when he hung up his cleats signaling an end to his illustrious career.
This media-shy let-my-bat-do-the-talking type player may have gone under the radar for some sports fans.  However, all you have to do is look into the eyes of the spellbound citizens of San Diego California and they can tell you about Tony Gwynn. The dignity, great work ethic, respect for the sport and the fans are some of the quality fibers of the rich tapestry that comprises Tony Gwynn the family man, baseball player and neighbor San Diegans have woven into their heart and essentially in the very fabric of their community.

Gwynn’s stand out behavior has impacted San Diego’s professional sport panorama so profoundly it trail blazed the way for All Pro running back sensation LaDainian Tomlinson’s open arms reception by San Diego’s sport and football fans alike. 

Besides being a perennial Met killer, Tony Gwynn was Mister make-it-happen-in-a-clutch situation as all New York Metropolitan “Mets” baseball fans can attest to throughout his two decade barrage on their team’s pitching. 

During his career he only struck out 434 times of his 9,288 major league career at bats. 
Gwynn’s batting average never dipped below a .309 in any full season after his rookie season in the big leagues when he hit for a .289 average. In 2004, Gwynn’s number 19 was retired never to be worn by any other San Diego Padres player.

Eight days prior to being enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame and some 25 years and two days after his major league debut, the San Diego Padres unveiled a 10 foot statue of Tony Gwynn in their “Park in the Park” area at PETCO Stadium. To further honor Gwynn for his productive and dedicated long service to the team and the San Diego community they changed the address of the ballpark to 19 Tony Gwynn Drive.

He was not a prolific homerun hitter but he consistently hit for a good average. Although his defense was solid he was not a flashy fielder. However, he just quietly and routinely got the job done year in and year out. He played within his strengths.

Being voted into the Hall of Fame for Tony Gwynn and his many fans willing to travel cross country because of their everlasting respect for him was about validation. As we recall his speech and the pomp and circumstance surrounding Tony Gwynn’s enshrinement into the Hall of Fame, one can not stop and think what does this means for people of color.

For many African- Americans, even though it should be everyday, the unofficial start of Black history celebration and evaluation of where we are as a people starts on Martin Luther King Day. You decide which goals were or were not accomplished and you make resolutions for the next year to become a better spouse, parent, child, citizen, supervisor, employee, athlete, sports fan and neighbor.  Besides the reward of appearing on the box of Wheaties as of July 20, 2007, Tony’s accomplishment was truly phenomenal not just for himself, his family and fans but for people of color in general.  It beckons us to the potential opportunities and hopes that lay unattained waiting to be claimed.  It stirs us to set goals, objectives and strategies to fulfill our dreams.  It reminds us that we should never give up nor allow others to sway us from our focus.

Baseball’s consummate gentleman Mr. Padre is a role model for the youth within the neighborhoods of San Diego, California and nationwide. Really, he is a role model for all Major League Baseball players one of which is his son. Milwaukee Brewer Major League outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. made his debut in 2006, when he lashed a double for his first major league hit, 24 years to the day which was 77 days before he was born his father hit his first major league hit also a double.

He embodied what and how all athletes in general should work and carry themselves. This is a big deal for us today as baseball wades through the steroids quagmire that just keeps growing more every season ready to explode into absolute unadulterated bedlam that detonates into a hotbed of perjury, suspensions, and a bevy of I’m so sorry with promises not to do it again. 

The pure joy of and passion for the game, the raw competition it evoked, the devotion to the organization and his fans coupled with the dedication to his craft was honored when Tony Gwynn was inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 29, 2007; which served as a reminder that ‘The Dream’ lives on in each of us.

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