San Diego, California - San Diego State head baseball coach Tony Gwynn has died of cancer at 54. Gwynn, who was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, passed away Monday at a hospital in suburban Poway, according to his agent John Boggs.
"On behalf of San Diego State University, I wish to express our deepest sorrow at Tony Gwynn’s passing,” said SDSU President Dr. Elliot Hirshman. “Tony’s extraordinary athletic abilities and achievements were matched by the kindness, support and mentoring he gave to countless members of our community. His impact on our baseball program and the entire university was profound and he will be deeply missed. The thoughts, prayers and condolences of the entire Aztec family go out to Tony’s family in this very sad time."
An All-American at San Diego State during his collegiate playing career, Gwynn was named the Aztecs head baseball coach on Sept. 21, 2001, serving as a volunteer assistant coach at SDSU during the 2002 campaign under former head coach Jim Dietz, who retired at the end of that season. Gwynn officially assumed the reins of the Aztec program in July 2002, becoming just the fourth head coach at the school since the sport of baseball was elevated to “major” varsity status in 1936.
“Tony was so proud to be a member of the Aztec community,” said SDSU Director of Athletics Jim Sterk. “He was a great ambassador, not only for the baseball program and the athletic department, but the entire University.” Tony’s passing is a huge loss for anyone that knew him, played for him or cheered for him when he was here at San Diego State or with the San Diego Padres. “On behalf of the entire SDSU family, I would like to offer our condolences to Alicia, Anisha, Tony, Jr. and the entire Gwynn family.”
In just his second season at the helm on Montezuma Mesa, Gwynn was named the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year after guiding the Aztecs to the league’s regular-season title in 2004. In 2009, Gwynn directed SDSU to a 43-21 record and the MW tournament crown as the Aztecs earned their first trip to the NCAA regionals since 1991. In 2013, he duplicated the feat after taking his squad on a run that included a pair of wins over 13th-ranked New Mexico en route to winning the MW tournament title.
“Tony’s passing is extremely devastating news for the baseball team and the entire family at San Diego State,” said SDSU executive baseball head coach Mark Martinez. “He has been a friend, mentor and father to all the kids who have played in our program during his tenure. He taught more than baseball at SDSU. He taught how to do thing the right way with respect, honor and class, and those are teaching that last a lifetime. He made a lasting impression on everyone who has come through the Aztec program including the coaching staff.”
“What will be missed most is the chance to hear him laugh,” Martinez added. “His infectious laughter had a way of turning bad thing to good and good things to better. His knowledge of the game, his ability to teach and his personality will all be sorely missed. All of our prayers go out for the family during this time.”
Gwynn was a two-time All-American as an outfielder after leading San Diego State in hitting his final two seasons. In 1980, he posted a .423 batting average with six home runs and 29 RBI, garnering third-team All-America accolades from Baseball News at the end of the season.
The following year, Gwynn was selected a first-team NCAA All-American after compiling a .416 batting average with 11 home runs and 62 RBI. He was a first-team all-Western Athletic Conference outfielder as well, and his RBI total that season still ranks among the top-10 on the Aztec single-season list.
In addition to three years of baseball, Gwynn played point guard for the SDSU basketball squad for four seasons and was named to the all-Western Athletic Conference team on two occasions. He remains the only athlete in WAC history to be honored as an all-conference performer in two sports.
Still one of SDSU's all-time greats at his position, Gwynn tied the school record for assists in a game with 18 against UNLV on Feb. 3, 1980. He also still holds the Aztec records for assists in a season (221) and career (590), and averaged 5.5 per game during his career. His mark of 8.2 assists per game during the 1979-80 campaign is the best ever for an Aztec.
A third-round draft choice of the Padres in 1981, Gwynn spent his entire 20-year major league career in San Diego, playing in 15 All-Star games to go with two World Series appearances. A career .338 hitter, Gwynn won eight batting titles and finished his playing days ranked 17th with 3,141 career hits. He was also ninth all-time in singles (2,378), 17th in doubles (543), and was among the top 75 in runs scored (1,383).
Gwynn was named to the Sporting News Silver Slugger team on seven occasions, marking the most in Padres history, and to that publication's all-league team five times. He won five Rawlings Gold Gloves for defensive excellence and also garnered Padre MVP honors a club-record seven times. Gwynn also collected five National League Player of the Month awards during his career, another Padre best.
In addition to his achievements as a player, Gwynn compiled a long list of accomplishments off the field. In 1999, he received the Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award for combining sportsmanship and community service with excellence on the field. That same year he captured the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, presented annually by Phi Delta Theta fraternity to the major league player who best exemplifies the character and leadership of the Hall of Fame first baseman both on and off the field.
Additional Statements Regarding Coach Gwynn’s Passing:
- “I had the privilege to get to know Tony over a 15-year span. I know him the way the country knows him, as an icon, an All-Star and a batting champion. I will remember Tony, the icon of San Diego, Mr. San Diego, along with those knew him, as a dad, as a loving husband and as someone who cared deeply for people. That’s the legacy that I think is most impressive and important to me. (He was) never affected by his celebrity status, always having time for people and was a father and a husband first and foremost.” – Steve Fisher, SDSU Men’s Basketball Head Coach
- “I’m saddened to hear of the loss of Coach Gwynn. He’s probably the most important figure in San Diego sports history and the community at large. He will be missed.” – Rocky Long, SDSU Football Head Coach
- “It’s obviously a really sad day. We not only lost our coach, but a great mentor and a great person in general… He was always laughing except for when we messed up. But for the most part he was always in good spirits. He was a great person to be around and lifted your spirits. So he’s definitely going to be missed.” – SDSU Infielder Ty France
- “I want to thank Tony Gwynn for showing us all what a true professional, husband, father, friend and man is supposed to look like. You will be missed.” – Marshall Faulk, Former SDSU All-American and Pro Football Hall of Famer
- “Coach Gwynn was more than a coach; he was like a father to me. He’s been a huge part of my life. He helped me grow as a man and as a player. People always talk about what a great hitter he was, but he was an even better person. It’s a terrible day for the entire Aztec family.” – Quintin Berry, Former SDSU Outfielder
- “I am so saddened to hear the news about Tony. We have lost such a beloved Aztec, Padre and San Diegan. Tony was special to all of us who knew him.” – San Diego Padres Manager Bud Black