6/16/2014 – by James Fedewa
I moved to Pacific Beach in San Diego about 2 months before I turned 21 years old (April 1993). My initial San Diego experience was at a very impressionable time in my life.
I only “liked” professional baseball and football, but the San Diego community (and local teams) only enhanced that “like” and grew it into a love. I quickly grew into a diehard San Diego Padres (and Chargers) fan and I have been a fanatic of those two teams for the last 22 years. Tony Gwynn was the superstar for the Padres and he became my favorite baseball player the more and more I watched and listen to him.
Living in San Diego, I went to as many baseball games as I could. Back in my early twenties, the Padres played at Jack Murphy Stadium, and the cheap tickets in right field were only $7 (back when baseball was considered the affordable sport), so we went to a lot of games. The best games were the Dodger/Padres of course, and Tony Gwynn always showed up and played great. Back then the Padres and Tony Gwynn were known as The Dodger Killers, as they always managed to beat their biggest rival L.A (the Giants on the other hand were quite opposite). It was Tony Gwynn’s team for 20 years and San Diegans loved their perennial all-star. No matter how terrible the Padres were, San Diego always had Tony Gwynn…
In the 2001 season, the last season of Gwynn’s career, was my most remembered of him. How he lasted on the same team his whole career made me admire him more, as he taught sacrifice. Tony did not start that season, as he had a knee injury and he was primarily used as a pinch-hitter. Most Padres fans knew it was going to be Gwynn’s final season, and since he did not start that season, it made attending every game even more important (just so you can get that final glimpse of the Mr. San Diego legend). As most pinch-hitters are used, in the latter innings of close games, fans would be anxious (at a warm idle) in hope the Padres could get a runner in scoring position, then Padres fans could “possibly” see Tony Gwynn come in for a pinch-hit. I got to see one of those close games, might have been his last too, and Tony hit a pinch hit single, drove in the winning run and the crowd went haywire.
I think the older we get, the more emotional we get, or we can actually recognize what we can lose even more (especially when we can relate our own experiences with those reminders of our past). The story of my favorite baseball player had so many chapters of Tony Gwynn’s 20 year career, with each year (or Chapter) being so different. From a young kid and growing into the man I am today, I can feel and empathize what Tony Gwynn did then, and related it to me, and what I was doing then. Being just a fan of a guy lets me combine his career and achievements, to where I’ve been in my own life.
I was always a fan of Tony Gwynn (the player, the person, the coach and the broadcaster). These “links” of history that we tie with the players we admire the most helps us look at ourselves (by reminding us of our own past and where we are now). I was only a fan of Tony Gwynn and I never met him, but he was Mr. San Diego and everyone in San Diego (and beyond) loved him. The moments of Tony Gwynn’s career are joined and bonded together through my life, as well as other fans across the globe. Remembering what he did makes me think of where I was, when he did it. When I was 20, 30 and 40 years old, Tony Gwynn’s career accomplishments remind me of several moment of my own life. When Tony Gwynn spoke, people were drawn to him. Aside his baseball accomplishments; his gift of gab, his charisma, and his smile were mesmerizing and he will truly be immortalize in my heart and with all baseball fans alike.
Tony Gwynn, Mr. San Diego, died today from cancer. He was 54 years old.