Friday, November 8, 2013

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #77 TONY GWYNN


ONE OF THE FIRST I SAW HIT WITH SUNGLASSES.




VIDEO THRILLED THE PADRES STAR.


DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Tony Gwynn certainly had God-given talent to square up a baseball, but he also was blessed with the desire to endlessly work his craft. One of the first to utilize video as a way to study his swing and make adjustments, sometimes in-game, Gwynn was a student of hitting in much the same way as Ted Williams. In 20 seasons, Mr. Padre won eight batting titles, second most in history, seven Silver Slugger Awards and, just to prove he wasn't all about hitting, five Gold Gloves, primarily as a right fielder. But it was those batting titles and 3,141 hits that earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame in 2007.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • On Aug. 11, 1994, Gwynn went 3-for-5 against the Astros in an 8-6 victory, raising his batting average to .394. What made this particular game noteworthy was it was the last of the season as the 232-day players' strike began the next day. You could say Gwynn was on a hot streak when the season ended. He was hitting .475 in August when his lordly season average was frozen in time after 419 at-bats. Could Gwynn have become the first .400 hitter since Williams batted .406 in '41? Thanks to the Milwaukee used card salesman and his minions -- I mean, minnows -- we'll never know.

DEFINING SEASON

  • Picking the defining Tony Gwynn season is like picking the worst reality show: Where do you begin? Let's go with Gwynn's '87 season, which was his best in terms of WAR (a major-league leading 8.5). He won his second batting title with a major-league leading .370 average, his second Gold Glove Award, rapped out 218 hits and stole 56 bases. He was selected for his fourth consecutive All-Star Game and finished eighth in the MVP voting. He also became the first player to hit .370 and steal 50-plus bags. 

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. After his average fell to .229 on July 29, 1983, Gwynn asked his wife to begin recording his at-bats so he could study them. He hit .339 the rest of the way, finishing at .309.
  2. On July 19, 1982, Gwynn got his first major-league hit, a double off the Phillies' Sid Monge. Pete Rose told Gwynn, "Congratulations. Don't catch me in one night.'' 
  3. Before putting on some weight, many forget how swift Gwynn was on the basepaths. He averaged 32 steals a season from '84-'90.
  4. Talk about someone who could put the ball into play: Gwynn averaged 29 strikeouts and 52 walks per season.
  5. Gwynn verbally sparred with Jack Clark when they were teammates in '89-'90, with Clark saying Gwynn was selfish and concerned only with maintaining his high average. Gwynn fired back, saying Clark walked too much as the cleanup hitter and took too many called third strikes. A few years later, Gwynn verbally supported Clark after Clark went bankrupt, and the slugger returned the gesture, saying he appreciated the support.

GWYNN WAS A PLEASURE TO MEET AT A SHOW IN THE LATE '80s.

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