ATLANTA -- Anytime a fan asked for an autograph Tony Gwynn obliged. Anytime a member of the media asked for an interview, Tony Gwynn obliged.
Gwynn, truly one of baseball's all time nice guys and a great ambassador for the game, died Monday after a battle with cancer. Nicknamed "Mr. Padre," Gwynn had been on a medical leave since late March from his job as baseball coach at San Diego State, his alma mater. He died at a hospital in suburban Poway, agent John Boggs said.
Gwynn spent his entire big league career with the Padres, 20 years and had maintained his cancer was caused by his years of using chewing tobacco. Gwynn had two operations for cancer in his right cheek between August 2010 and February 2012. The second surgery was complicated, with surgeons removing a facial nerve because it was intertwined with a tumor inside his right cheek. They grafted a nerve from Gwynn's neck to help him eventually regain facial movement.
A 15-time All-Star, Gwynn had 3,141 hits, a career .338 average and won eight NL batting titles. Gwynn was hitting .394 in 1994 when the players strike ended his chance to possibly become the first player to hit .400 since Ted Williams.Gwynn befriended Williams and helped steady him as Williams threw out the first pitch of the 1999 All Star game in Fenway Park.
A 3rd round draft pick in 1981, Gwynn was a two-sport star at San Diego State, playing point guard for the basketball team — he still holds the game, season and career record for assists — and outfielder for the baseball team.
Gwynn always wanted to play in the NBA, until realizing during his final year at San Diego State that baseball would be the ticket to the pros.
Gwynn was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 2007.
Tony Gwynn was just 54 years old.