Like so many others who met Tony Gwynn, the news of his passing is difficult for me to accept.
Gwynn was the consummate baseball player, the owner of eight batting titles (only Ty Cobb’s 11 beats him), and collected 3,141 hits over his Hall of Fame, 20-year career — all with the San Diego Padres.
He was also a businessman, and had several ventures, some good, others not so good.
One time towards the end of his illustrious career in 2000, he became a franchise owner of a national fried chicken business in Southern California. That investment triggered a story for the Business Journal by this reporter.
I can’t recall all that much of the interview, but I do know Gwynn was cordial, frank and one of the most straight-ahead, unpretentious athletes I’ve ever spoken with.
In the story, Gwynn said then that just because he was entering into the business arrangement, he wasn’t contemplating retiring anytime soon. He would retire two years hence. After the five-year minimum waiting period, he was elected to the Hall of Fame along with Cal Ripken.
My interaction with Gwynn wasn’t long, maybe 15 to 20 minutes and over the phone, but it was long enough for me to get a feel for who he was, and realize that his reputation as a good guy was well-deserved.
Tony, we’ll miss you terribly, but we will never, ever forget that smile, that swing, your loyalty and your humanity.
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