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Remembering Tony Gwynn

San Diego Magazine says goodbye to Mr. Padre.

By Erin Chambers Smith

Remembering Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn

For a generation of San Diegans–and baseball fans across the nation–it’s a sad day. But we’re all hearing laughter in our heads. Or a chuckle. We all remember that chuckle. A joyful bellow given generously for great plays, eager fans, sick kids, and anyone lucky enough to join a conversation with him.

I have so many memories of watching him from the nosebleeds as a kid at Jack Murphy stadium in 1980s. We all do, right? Whether you were a kid or a parent during those years, Tony Gywnn was the guy that made the Padres fun to watch. He made the team our team.

The last time I saw him was in the airport. It was a few years ago and he was traveling with his Aztecs to a game. I was behind him in the security line, and everybody around was just tickled to be in his presence. The TSA person, the guy in front of him, me behind him, everyone he passed going up the escalator to Terminal 1, where he boarded the Southwest flight with his team. “Hey Coach!” “Go Aztecs!” “We love you Tony!” “Dude, Tony Gwynn. We miss you!” He was happy and relaxed, waved and said thanks and hey and Go Aztecs right back to each person that acknowledged him. When a few of the players were milling around the newsstands buying gum and chips and bottles of water for the flight, Tony was behind them, unseen but keeping an eye on them. I was behind Tony, and saw him motion to the clerk that he had all of these guys covered. He bought all of their Doritos, their $5 airport waters, gum, magazines and granola bars. He didn’t save receipts; he wasn’t expensing any of it to SDSU Athletics. He was just being a good dad to a group of his kids. “Thanks Coach!” they all said. And he just smiled, beamed really, back at all of them and nodded off the kindness like it’s no big thing. It was truly his pleasure. Simple evidence of how good it feels to do good.

His son, Tony Gwynn Jr. who plays for the Phillies, recalls his father’s influence in this story posted yesterday in Philadelphia. What he considered his greatest advice wasn’t about baseball. It was simply: “Take care of your family.”

We’d like to hear your favorite memories, too. Share you favorite story of Mr. Padre in the comments here or email your stories, photos, memories to [email protected]. Or use the hashtag #rememberingMrPadre on Twitter or instagram. We’ve already seen so many great photos of fans with their arms wrapped around him. We will use as many as we can in our commemorative piece coming out in the next issue.

Thanks. Go Padres. Go Aztecs.

Find details on the public memorial service for Tony Gwynn this Thursday here.

Here are some stories from our archives featuring Tony Gwynn’s baseball, charity work, and acts of kindness around San Diego:

Tony Gwynn – Back in the Game

The Full Tony

Hitting the Hall

Haul of Fame

50 People to Watch 2003

Tony Gwynn, the 5.5 Hole and a Mountain of Memories at SDSU

Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr.

Remembering the ’84 World Series San Diego Padres

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