I am happy to hear reports that Tony Gwynn’s Valentine’s Day surgery on the cancerous growth went well, and there is optimism in the air for the Hall of Famer who means so much to his family, friends, and baseball fans especially in San Diego.
Tony was famous for, among many feats, hitting in the 5.5 hole (an unlikely target for a lefty) which helped him chalk up his 3,141 hits, often keeping his team in the game along the way. For as much as he knew, he was willing to learn: from pioneering the use of videotape, from his own mistakes, from studying pitchers, and from the late, great hitter, Ted Williams, who challenged him in 1992 to, as Tony says, “Think about the art of hitting a baseball.” Mr. Padre has provided such an example of hard work and good character. Countless are grateful the doctors could be the experts as he faced round two of the tough cancer opponent.
I’ve interviewed Tony several times beginning in 1997, producing a record five One on One television programs featuring his story from his early years and career, through retirement and coaching at SDSU (starting the next day), to being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Just as he was consistent in his game, he has been consistent in his attitude and approach to life based largely on his father Charles’ mantra, “If you work hard good things will happen.”
But Tony is not without his vulnerable and emotional dimensions. Who can forget the tears and his getting choked up when we watched him in his living room, receiving the call from the Baseball Writers Association, or at the press conference that same January day when I asked him what his father would think about his election into the Hall of Fame, or his beaming face when he sees his wife Alicia, and his children Anthony and Anisha? Tony Gwynn is a man with heart, and in so being, is a part of ours. Whether you are a die-hard or casual fan, if you’re from San Diego, or just know about Tony Gwynn, it’s more than likely you’re a fan of the man, as much as the player.
In Tony’s Hall of Fame speech July 29, 2007, he said, “I told the people of San Diego when I left to come to Cooperstown, they were going to be standing up here with me. So I hope they are just as nervous as I am, because this is a tremendous honor to be here today.” While the medical team and family are by his side to care for Tony, he can be sure admirers are continuing to send prayers and positive thoughts for his road to recovery.
Looking forward to seeing him back in the Aztec dugout and the broadcast booth.
For more on Jane’s experience interviewing Tony Gwynn and his family, and for the transcript of the Hall of Fame edition, get the book at the One on One store here, or on Kindle.