Baseball lost one of its all-time greats on Monday with the passing of San Diego Padres legend Tony Gwynn. Gwynn was only 54, finally succumbing to a four-year struggle with cancer of the salivary gland.
There have already been plenty of tributes written to Gwynn’s talent and character, and there will surely be many, many more. He was the best pure hitter of his era, making an art of slapping the ball to the opposite field — often through the hole between the shortstop and third baseman.
As a Hall of Famer (inducted in 2007), it’s a given that Gwynn is one of the best players in baseball history. But it’s worth noting just how spectacular some of his achievements were, along with how impressive an athlete he truly was. (That could be sometimes overlooked with the doughy physique Gwynn carried through most of his career.)
In accordance with his jersey number, here are 19 facts that absolutely deserve to be remembered about Gwynn’s athletic career.
1. Tony Gwynn finished his career with 3,141 hits, ranking No. 19 on MLB’s all-time list.
2. Gwynn hit .350 or higher in seven of his 20 MLB seasons. Four other players — Ted Williams, Al Simmons, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Ned Lajoie — hit at least .350 that many times. Only Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tris Speaker, Rogers Hornsby and Ty Cobb had more seasons batting .350 or above.
3. With a .338 batting average, Gwynn is one of 30 players in the entire history of Major League Baseball to hit .330 or higher for his entire career.
4. Gwynn led his league in batting average eight times. The only other player to win more batting titles was Cobb, who earned 12 of them.
5. Gwynn hit .300 or better for 19 consecutive seasons, the longest run in National League history. (Cobb holds the American League mark with 23.)
6. Gwynn finished the 1994 strike-shortened season with a .394 average, ranking No. 37 on baseball’s all-time list. Had that season not ended on Aug. 12, would he have become only the 21st player in MLB history to do so and the first since Ted Williams batted .406 in 1941?
7. In August 1994, Gwynn hit .475 in 43 plate appearances. After the All-Star break, he was batting .423. No, we’ll never know if he would’ve hit .400, but he was making a hard charge at the mark and surely would’ve kept the chase interesting into September.
8. Against Greg Maddux, Gwynn batted .415 in 107 plate appearances. That’s the most PAs he had against any batter. Gwynn also never struck out versus Maddux.
9. In 10,232 plate appearances, Gwynn struck out 434 times. That averages out to a strikeout every 23.57 PAs.
10. Gwynn has more career doubles (543) than strikeouts.
11. The most times Gwynn struck out in his career was 40, reaching that mark in 1988. The fewest times he struck out during a season in which he had 500 or more plate appearances was 1995, when he struck out 15 times in 577 PAs.
12. In 1987, Gwynn hit .370 with 56 stolen bases. He’s one of five players to hit .370 with at least 50 steals in a season, along with Cobb, Sisler, Speaker and Benny Kauff. (via SI.com’s Tom Verducci)
13. Gwynn is one of 17 MLB players to play at least 20 seasons and spend his entire career with one team.
14. Among Padres all-time batting leaders, Gwynn holds the franchise’s top mark in 14 categories. He ranks first in career batting average, hits, extra-base hits, runs scored, RBI, doubles, triples, stolen bases, games played, total bases, plate appearances, walks, intentional walks and sacrifice flies.
15. Gwynn was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on 97.6 percent of the ballots. (Fellow inductee Cal Ripken Jr. earned 98.5 percent of the vote.) No one eligible for the Hall of Fame has gotten that high of a percentage since then. (Greg Maddux was close at 97.2 percent. Maybe it would’ve been higher if he’d gotten Gwynn out more often.)
16. MLB Rule 10.22 (a) is unofficially known as “The Tony Gwynn Rule.” In 1996, Gwynn had 498 plate appearances, four short of the 502 necessary to qualify for the batting title. The rule allows hitless at-bats to be added to a player’s season total, getting him to the minimum required number. With the extra PAs, Gwynn’s average would have dropped from .353 to .349, still good enough for first in the NL that season.
17. Gwynn played basketball, in addition to baseball, at San Diego State. As a point guard, Gwynn is the school’s all-time leader in career assists (590), season assists (221, 8.2 per game), and most assists in a game (18).
18. Gwynn is the only player in Western Athletic Conference history to be named to the all-conference team in two different sports. He earned the honors once in baseball, twice in basketball. (Gwynn was also a two-time All-American.)
19. In 1981, Gwynn was a third-round selection in the MLB Draft (58th overall) and a 10th-round pick (No. 210 overall) in the NBA Draft by the
Los Angeles then-San Diego Clippers.