Gwynn, Tony

▪ 1998

      U.S. athlete Tony Gwynn declared 1997 his best year in major league baseball. Few would argue with him. The San Diego Padres right fielder won his 8th batting crown, tying Honus Wagner for the National League record (Ty Cobb held the major league mark with 12), and recorded his 5th consecutive season batting .350 or better with an average of .372; his career average (.340) placed him 14th on the all-time list, tied with Lou Gehrig and George Sisler. In addition, Gwynn set personal highs during 1997 in home runs (17), runs batted in (119), extra-base hits (68), and total bases (324).

      Born May 9, 1960, in Los Angeles, Anthony Keith Gwynn first attracted attention as a basketball player. He attended San Diego (Calif.) State University on a basketball scholarship and, as the Aztecs' point guard, set the school record for assists. Gwynn also played on the university's baseball team, and in 1981 he was selected in both the major league baseball and National Basketball Association (NBA) drafts. He turned down the NBA San Diego Clippers (later Los Angeles Clippers) to sign with the Padres. In 1983, his second year in the league, Gwynn batted .309; since then, he had not ended a season with an average below .300, and his current streak of 15 such seasons set a major league record. In 1984 he won the first of his eight batting titles (1987-89, 1994-97). His .394 average in 1994 was the highest finish in the major leagues since Ted Williams's .406 in 1941. Gwynn's success at the plate was due to outstanding hand-eye coordination, instinct for pitch selection, and a batting technique that was refined through countless hours of video analysis. While not a power hitter, he developed one of the sport's most efficient swings, reaching base on line drives and sharply hit grounders. Though best known for his offense, Gwynn also developed into a solid defensive player after initially struggling in the outfield; he was a five-time Golden Glove recipient (1986-87, 1989-91).

      Possibly the only accolade missing from Gwynn's credits was a World Series title. The Padres' lone appearance in the championships came during the 1984 season, when they lost to the Detroit Tigers. Nonetheless, the 13-time all-star remained loyal to the Padres, forgoing free agency and signing for less money to stay with the franchise. In an era when professional players regularly changed teams, he proved a rarity.

AMY TIKKANEN

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▪ American athlete
byname of  Anthony Keith Gwynn 
born May 9, 1960, Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.

      American professional baseball player. Noted as one of the sport's all-time best singles hitters, he threw and batted from the left side.

      Gwynn attended San Diego (California) State University on a basketball scholarship, where he set a school record for assists as the team's point guard. He also excelled at baseball and was drafted in 1981 by both the San Diego Clippers (later the Los Angeles Clippers), of the National Basketball Association, and by the San Diego Padres, of Major League Baseball. He chose the Padres, and during the 1982 season he was called up from their minor league team to play. He played his entire career as an outfielder with the Padres.

      In 1984 he hit .351 and helped his club reach the World Series. In the 1994 strike-shortened season he hit .394, the best batting average since Ted Williams (Williams, Ted) hit .406 in 1941. Although the Padres lost to the New York Yankees in the 1998 World Series, Gwynn hit .500 (8 for 16), with 1 home run and 3 runs batted in.

      Gwynn's career highlights include: tying the National League (NL) record for most consecutive seasons (17) hitting .300 or better; tying the NL record for most batting titles (8); being the 22nd player to reach 3,000 hits; and winning the Golden Glove award (for fielding) 5 times. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

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Universalium. 2010.

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