Gwynn remembered prior to Padres’ game Monday
By Scott Johnson
SEATTLE — A dark cloud hung over Safeco Field on an otherwise clear and sunny day Monday, when the San Diego Padres found out that they had lost the greatest player in their franchise’s history to a battle with cancer.
The news of Tony Gwynn’s passing at the age of 54 hit both clubhouses hard before Monday’s game against the Seattle Mariners.
The Padres had a Tony Gwynn No. 19 jersey on a hanger in their dugout.
Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon, who had befriended Gwynn over the years and counted him as a mentor, called the news “devastating.”
“To think that we’ve lost him at the age of 54,” McClendon said, “it’s really, really tragic.”
Although Gwynn was a Padre for his whole career, he had an obvious impact on players and teams throughout the league. Mariners relief pitcher Joe Beimel talked before Monday’s game about the pride he took in issuing Gwynn’s final home run of his career in 2001, telling The Seattle Times: “I kept watching the box scores the rest of the season to see if he’d have another one, and he didn’t. So I was like, ‘Yes!’“
Gwynn’s brother, Chris, is the Mariners’ director of player development.
Of course, the news hit no team harder than the Padres. The San Diego players remembered Gwynn as an incredibly approachable superstar.
“When you think of the Padres, that’s who you think of,” third baseman Chase Headley told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “But once you talked to him for two minutes, that was gone because he treated you just like you were his brother.”
Padres manager Bud Black was a teammate of Gwynn’s at San Diego State.
“He didn’t change,” Black said before Monday’s game. “All his success as a player, all the accolades he got, he truly did remain the same guy.”
Before Monday’s game, the Mariners played a two-minute video tribute to Gwynn, after which the stadium observed a moment of silence. Gwynn’s No. 19 was etched into the dirt behind third base.
As the Padres wrote in a statement about Gwynn’s passing: “There are no words to express what Tony means to this organization and this community. More than just Mr. Padre, Tony was Mr. San Diego.”
The scene at Safeco Field proved that Gwynn’s legacy went well beyond the city he called home.