BLOG FOR JUNE 24:
It was one week ago that the game of baseball lost one of its finest ambassadors with the passing of Tony Gwynn, Sr. One of my regrets as a broadcaster is that I never had the privilege of calling a game with “Mr. Padre” in action. There may have been a spring training game when the Cleveland Indians first trained in Arizona, but the Tribe never faced San Diego in the regular season during my time with the team. In the early years of interleague play, the two teams never met. I joined the Rockies in 2003, but by that time, Tony had retired.
What I missed watching as a player was more than compensated by the times spent talking baseball with Tony when he worked in the Padres’ broadcast booth. You may have read stories or heard other media talk about how Tony made time for everyone, and believe me that is the absolute truth. He seemed to have a running conversation with multiple people all the time, and each person felt like Tony was focused solely on them. He had an infectious smile, and that laugh...it would begin in his ample midsection, rumble through his throat, and then shower you in delight. He was a special person to be around.
The question is often posed to me about who has been my favorite player to cover during my time here in the big leagues. There have been many, and I feel blessed in that regard, but a quartet stands out: Kirby Puckett, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, and Tony Gwynn. I admit that I didn’t actually cover Gwynn, but he has to be in this group for the same reasons as the other three. Each one played the game with great skill and determination. Each is in the Hall of Fame or will be when they become eligible. This group is special to me, however, for two other reasons. Talk with their teammates and listen to them tell you how Thome, Vizquel, Puckett, and Gwynn made them better players, from their approach to their ability to get a team to play the game the right way. Most of all, they enjoyed what they were doing and how blessed they were to do something they loved. Tony, Jim, Kirby, and Omar had smiles that would light up a ballpark, and that’s what made them special to me.
Tony Gwynn has the opportunity, even after his death, to continue to impact the game that meant so much to him. The cancer that took his life was the result of his use of spitless tobacco, and that tragic lesson might teach current and future ballplayers that nothing good comes from its use. Addison Reed of the Diamondbacks has already announced that he has quit, and we can only hope that he is just the first of many to do so.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Phil Gates is a blues guitarist that is not afraid to take on well-known songs and give them his own feel. Check out his version of Summer in the City. It certainly gives a different twist to the Lovin’ Spoonful classic. Also, I hope you will tune into the MIKE ROSEN SHOW on 850KOA today (6/24) at 2:05 pm MDT. Mike and I will be discussing my book, NIGHT OF DESTINY, and we would love to hear from you. You can listen live at bit.ly/850News.