Tony Gwynn, baseball hall of famer was 54

gwynn-rip.jpgThe San Diego Padres and the Baseball Hall of Fame announced this morning that Tony Gwynn, a hitting star for the team for 20 years — and one of the best pure hitters of all time — has died of cancer of the mouth. He was 54 and had blamed smokeless tobacco for his illness. Gwynn's son Tony Jr. and brother Chris formerly played for the Dodgers.

Gwynn finished his career, all spent with the Padres, with the highest batting average since Ted Williams retired.

"Major League Baseball today mourns the tragic loss of Tony Gwynn," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement Monday. "The greatest Padre ever and one of the most accomplished hitters that our game has ever known, whose all-around excellence on the field was surpassed by his exuberant personality and genial disposition in life.

"... For more than 30 years, Tony Gwynn was a source of universal goodwill in the National Pastime, and he will be deeply missed by the many people he touched. On behalf of all of our Clubs, I extend my deepest condolences to Tony's wife Alicia, their son Tony Jr. of the Phillies, their daughter Anisha, the Padres franchise, his fans in San Diego and his many admirers throughout Baseball."

"Tony will be remembered in baseball circles for his hitting acumen, as evidenced by a lofty .338 lifetime batting average and an astonishing eight National League batting titles," Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement. "But it was his infectious laugh, ever-present smile and humble disposition that made Mr. Padre a favorite in San Diego and an endearing figure to a nation of baseball fans who marveled at his career accolades and celebrated his 2007 induction into the Hall of Fame in record numbers."

Gwynn grew up in Long Beach and attended Polytechnic High School and San Diego State. He was drafted in baseball by the Padres and in basketball by the Clippers, then also in San Diego. He came up to the Padres in 1982.

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