By now, you know of the untimely passing of Tony Gwynn, the best hitter of his generation. And I say that for a generation that included Wade Boggs, also a 3,000-hit man.
Gwynn's numbers were impressive. Six 200-hit seasons. Eight batting titles, 14 All-Star selections, and he seemingly personally willed the Padres to two World Series during his career, one of which is to the eternal regret of us as Cubs fans. His .338 lifetime batting average ranks just 18th all-time, but is the best of anyone who debuted after World War II.
Against the Cubs, he actually hit a bit worse than his overall numbers: .333/.387/.439, and .335/.392/.434 at Wrigley Field -- an identical OPS (.826) for each. But the thing Cubs fans might remember most about him is his seventh-inning double that seemed to eat Ryne Sandberg alive, scoring the lead runs in Game 5 of the 1984 NLCS. Of that series, perhaps enough said.
Gwynn's 3,141 hits rank 19th all-time, and among the more impressive things he did was strike out almost not at all. From our modern perspective, where hitters seem to K at will, Gwynn walked more than he struck out every year of his career (except his 54-game rookie season in 1982, where he missed doing that by just a couple of K's). Overall he walked 790 times -- not a lot, because he was busy hitting, hitting, hitting -- and struck out just 434 times. Gwynn, Nellie Fox and Bill Buckner are the only hitters who debuted after World War II to have 10,000 or more plate appearances with fewer than 500 strikeouts.
It was noted earlier that Gwynn hit .415/.476/.521 in 107 plate appearances off Greg Maddux, an amazing performance off the best pitcher of his era, without once striking out. Maddux tweeted condolences:
Tony Gwynn was the best pure hitter I ever faced! Condolences to his family.— greg maddux (@gregmaddux) June 16, 2014
Most of all, we'll miss Gwynn's sunny personality; from all the reports I've read today, plus following his career, he never failed to be polite and nice to everyone around him, whether it was family, friends, people in baseball, or just fans. The game will miss him tremendously.
Here's the place where you can share your memories of Tony Gwynn, Hall of Famer, gone too soon at age 54.