July 29, 2007


A Hall of Famer as sweet as his swing (Bill Plaschke, July 29, 2007, LA Times)

This is a Tony Gwynn story. But, as with every Tony Gwynn story, it is about somebody else.

It was 20 years ago in Cincinnati. I was covering the San Diego Padres for this newspaper. My little brother Andrew had joined me on the trip.

It was the early evening hours after a day game. I was in the hotel room finishing work. Andrew was in the hotel lobby waiting impatiently for dinner.

As you may remember from a column several years ago, Andrew suffers from cystic fibrosis. At 13, the terminal illness kept him thin and small.

Swallowed by an overstuffed chair in an elegant hotel lobby, Andrew wasn't easily noticed.

Tony Gwynn noticed him.

Tony Gwynn didn't even know him, and he noticed him.

Upon returning from the game, Gwynn saw him sitting alone, looking lost, so he walked up, sat down, and started talking.

He talked hitting, he talked life. Andrew eventually introduced himself and they talked some more. At one point, Andrew wondered why one of the best players in baseball was hanging out in a hotel lobby on a Saturday.

That's when the pizza arrived.

Keeping with his nightly ritual, Gwynn had ordered a pizza that he would eat in his room while watching videotape.

Only this time, he opened it up on the expensive lobby furniture and shared it with Andrew.

By the time I got downstairs, Gwynn was waving goodbye and disappearing up the stairs, leaving Andrew with crusts and memories.

The next day I thanked Tony, and, typically, he shrugged.

"Thanks for what?" he said. "For eating dinner?"

How were he and Cal Ripken not unanimous?

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 29, 2007 6:28 AM

Because there's a voting member of the BBWAA (can't remember his name but a Google search will probably bring him up; he's rather proud of the "stand" he thinks he's taking) who withholds his vote on principle from anyone he thinks could get unanimity. His reasoning? If there are no unanimous members so far, then there should never be any - as if the doofus who voted against Babe Ruth excuses the doofus who will vote against Roger Clemens. I have no idea why denying unanimity to obvious Hall-of-Fame locks is so important to this guy ... whatever gives your life meaning, I suppose.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at July 29, 2007 7:25 AM

OJ -- thanks for posting this. Obviously such a contrast to Barry Bonds, who prides himself on being a cheat and a jerk, and players like Sosa, Palmiero & McGwire who act like cowards. Also that Gwynn played outside a major market where he would have made more money says a lot about him. -- Jim

Posted by: Jim Siegel at July 29, 2007 9:28 AM

Because Gwynn was a corner outfielder who slugged only .459 for his career, and despite the gaudy avg of .338 stil got on base at a .388 clip, only 50 pts higher than his avg?

Because Ripken's career line is a hardly impressive .276/.340/.447? Sure he was a ss for most of career, and his peers in the Hall at the position aren't exactly a hard-hitting bunch, but those numbers don't merit first-ballot hall-of-famer. As a Yankee fan who remembers Cal's rookie year, he was scarcely someone who ever struck fear into me when he came to the plate vs my teanm.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at July 29, 2007 12:53 PM

The only player with a BA as high as Gwynn's since 1938 is Ted Williams.

Cal revolutionized the position by showing big men could play sound defense, not that Yankee fans know what that looks like from a ss....

Posted by: oj at July 29, 2007 7:57 PM