Mr. Padre, Mr. San Diego, dies of cancer
I began watching the Padres in 1982 and Tony Gwynn specifically when he came up to the bigs in 1983. I did the news on the Padres flagship station KFMB at the time and heard all the games waiting for my chance to do the post game newscast. It was through Jerry Coleman, Dave Campbell and Ted Leitner’s play-by-play that I learned about baseball and began a years long appreciation of the man who later became known as Mr. Padre.
It was hard not to pick out the new guy as the “Player of the Game” (when it wasn’t Steve Garvey, Dave Dravecky or Eric Show) and I was impressed with his workmanlike behavior and humility in those post game interviews. I became a big fan. He could have sucked and I would have been a big fan.
He’d come to the station now and then to sit in with the hosts. I’d met him. He was genuinely nice.
Even though I knew it wasn’t very professional, I was so impressed by Tony’s maturity, artfulness and work ethic that I sent a fan letter to the man.
I don’t feel too bad for being such a fan girl after George Will selected Tony as one of his subjects in his homage to the greats called, “Men At Work.” Good choice.
Years later, after my husband and I moved to Portland, Oregon, I got this copy of Sports Illustrated (nearby) in the mail. I’d already bought two Tony Gwynn jerseys –one I wore and the other I’d saved for the day when I could have an autograph. My friend, Rich Rudy, the top producer for two sports anchors in town, offered to take it in for Tony to sign. Tony was his usual gregarious and humble self. Then he did something that I thought was so cool. He asked how I was doing in Portland. He apparently remembered me.
As I’ve listened to the tributes to Tony on the San Diego airwaves today, I’ve noticed a lot of people have that same story–Tony remembered them.
All I know is, I’ll never forget him.