Anthony “Tony” Gwynn of San Diego State’s Tony Gwynn Stadium was born on May 9, 1960 in Los Angeles, California. He grew up in Long Beach, California where he fell in love with the beautiful games of basketball and baseball. Throughout his childhood and teenage years Gwynn excelled in both sports. No matter how much the rigor and intensity of each sport progressively increased as he grew older, the Southern California-bred baseball legend avoided having to choose between the two.
When the time came to choose a college, Gwynn stood by his dedication to both sports. He was offered basketball scholarships at numerous colleges but none for baseball. He considered schools such as California State Fullerton and Texas Christian University. At Fullerton, he would not be allowed to play both sports as per the ruling of the head baseball coach there. At TCU, Gwynn would have been the college’s first African-American player in thirty years, which he found unfavorable, ruling out that school as an option. Gwynn ended up choosing a school within reasonable distance from his hometown, San Diego State University.
During his freshmen year at SDSU, Gwynn was not allowed to play baseball as per his weight. At an overweight 205 pounds, he was deemed too hefty to play baseball and under strict instruction from his basketball coach to get in shape for the upcoming basketball season. He excelled in basketball and awaited the head baseball coach to pursue interest in him but his call never came. Despite this, Gwynn still found a way to make the presence of both sports a part of his life. He had played against then-freshman shortstop, Bobby Meacham, in high school and Meachum convinced the head coach to give Gwynn a chance to join the baseball team. Having lost two players to injuries sustained due to a biking-automobile collision accident, the head coach complied and Gwynn did not disappoint. Just like that, Gwynn once again found a way for keep his love for both sports alive and well.
Gwynn went on to make history at San Diego State by not only breaking records in both sports but by becoming the first and only athlete, in the Western Conference, to be named an “all-conference player” in two different sports, as well. This rare and noble achievement is still true and standing today. Three seasons of baseball and four seasons of basketball later, he left a legacy behind at San Diego State University but never travel far from his alma mater.
He ultimately and inevitably chose between the two sports he loved so dearly and was drafted by the Major League Baseball team, the San Diego Padres. As the 58th pick of the 3rd round draft in 1981, Gwynn continued to break and set records in the city of San Diego throughout his major league career. He spent his entire, 20 season-long career on the San Diego Padres, and was able to help contribute to another historic event in 1984 when the Padres advanced to their first ever World Series. In 1986, Gwynn was honored with the prestigious award of the “Golden Glove” for his impeccable defensive performance in the outfield, a skill that he struggled with during his college baseball career and worked to improve throughout his major league career. In 1997, Gwynn was also given the distinguished honor of having San Diego State’s baseball stadium named after him, Tony Gwynn Stadium. The name still remains today.
Embellished with the nickname “Mr. Padre” and 20 baseball seasons later in 2001, the Southern California bred baseball legend retired with 3,141 career hits. However, even retirement couldn’t keep Mr. Padre away from the game he loved. In 2002, he applied for the unpaid, volunteer head coaching position of the San Diego State University baseball team. There, he would return to his alma mater and coach them through 12 seasons in the stadium named after himself. During his time as head coach, he coached the team to three Mountain West Conference championship victories and three NCAA tournament appearances. He coached future MLB stars in their developing professional careers such as Justin Masterson and Stephen Strasburg-- a number one draft pick. Gwynn left his mark in history in whatever he did.
In 2004, his #19 Padres jersey was retired in a ceremony at PETCO park, the home stadium of the San Diego Padres, to honor one of San Diego’s legendary sports figures. In addition to numerous other honorable titles, Gwynn was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. No matter how much time went by, Gwynn’s love for the game of baseball never faltered. In 2014, Gwynn passed away due to his ongoing battle with salivary gland cancer. Today, Tony Gwynn is remembered and widely regarded as one of the greatest baseball players in Padres history. He devoted his entire life to baseball; playing and coaching with passion and enthusiasm for the game. With Padres Franchise records, National records, and Major League records, Mr. Padre’s mark on the game of baseball as well as San Diego State University will forever remain.