Tony Gwynn died on June 16, 2014 at fifty-four years old because this world is shit and there’s nothing that can be done about that. Throughout his career, Gwynn did things at the plate that made Ty Cobb’s ghost jealous (and Ty Cobb’s ghost is notoriously stoic—we met at mixer back in ’01 but I digress). Gwynn was such a capable hitter that hall of fame pitchers still bitch about how hard he was to get out. Hell, pitchers who never faced Gwynn complain about how hard he was to get out, as will pitchers yet to pitch a game in the majors. If you are now, ever were or ever will be a pitcher in the majors, you had an impossible time getting Gwynn out, laws of time and space be damned.
He had more doubles than strikeouts, batted over .450 with men in scoring position in ’97 and saved the lives of something like two hundred puppies in his twenty year career. His high voice kept him from being a well-known television personality but his advanced understanding of hitting made him more than good at the job. In a perfect world, Tony Gwynn is on MLB Network explaining what Kolten Wong did in Memphis (if anything) to improve his swing. But this is not a perfect world, it is a world of shit, which is why Gwynn is dead at 54 and Al Hrabosky’s uninformed opinions have cursed the airwaves for more than twenty years.
Instead of broadcasting or becoming an ESPN talking douche, and instead of taking what would have been an easy and lucrative position in the front office for the San Diego Padres, Tony Gwynn chose to be a coach at his alma mater. Now, I am not the type to put men on pedestals, nor am I the type to think that one who passes up money for something they love is necessarily sacrificing anything, but in a perfect world, all ballplayers would retire and go back to their roots. In a perfect world, every Hall of Famer would take a job coaching in the college ranks and help the next generation realize their dreams. This world is shit though, so that never happens, except when Tony Gwynn did it because Tony Gwynn’s smile saved the Saimaa Ringed Seals from extinction and everything he did was awe inspiring.
Tony Gwynn had more than 3000 hits, a .338 career batting average, 19 straight seasons hitting .300+, 8 batting titles, 15 All Star Games all while being listed at 5’10’’ and rumored to be shorter than that. Near the end of his career, deciding that baseball was too easy for an in-shape Tony Gwynn, he got fat. I like to think he gained the weight to inspire fat little leaguers everywhere, but even if he just gained the weight because he liked doughnuts it still worked for him. Being fat didn’t stop Tony from hitting. Only cancer could do that. Cancer is one of the things that make this world so shitty; obesity is another. In a perfect world Gwynn would have dealt with neither cancer nor obesity. This world is shit though, so he got both.
If there is a heaven, and this world being such a pile of shit I have to believe there is some kind of reward for being a decent human being throughout one's life on it, Tony Gwynn is up there in the cages with Ted Williams, telling stories of southern California and commiserating about what it was like being a baseball god who never got a ring.
Gwynn could have been many things that would have made him another piece of shit in a shitty world. He could have been an ESPN personality, a front office lay about, a prima donna, a steroid user, a drunk, an abuser, a fucking New York Yankee. He had every opportunity to rely solely on his talent and ability and shit on this piece of shit world and expect the world to thank him for it all because he was one of the best hitters to ever play baseball, but instead he was an incredibly great and genuine human being.
And I will shit one anyone who says otherwise.