Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn dies of cancer at 54

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Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn dies of cancer at 54
FILE - This Jan. 30, 2006, file photo shows Hall of Fame baseball player and head coach of San Diego State's baseball team, Tony Gwynn, talking about the upcoming season while watching a practice, in San Diego. Gwynn says he has cancer in a salivary gland. He told The San Diego Union-Tribune, in a story published Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, the cancer was discovered last month and he faces seven to eight weeks of treatment _ radiation five times a week and chemotherapy once a week.(AP Photo/Chris Park, File)
DENVER, : National League player Tony Gwynn hits a single for two runs during the third inning of the 1998 Major League All-Star game 07 July at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. AFP PHOTO/Jeff Haynes (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)
BRONX, NY - OCTOBER 17: Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres bats during to Game One of the World Series against the New York Yankees on October 17, 1998 at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)
Newly elected Baseball Hall of Fame baseball players Cal Ripken, left, and Tony Gwynn speak during a news conference in Baltimore, Friday, Jan. 26, 2007.(AP Photo/Chris Gardner)
Tony Gwynn smiles at Cal Ripken, Jr. during a press conference after their election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Cal Ripken, Jr., left, and Tony Gwynn pose for pictures during a press conference after their election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2007 file photo, former San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn talks about his election to the National Baseball Hall Of Fame, in San Diego. The Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday, June 16, 2014 said Gwynn has died of cancer. He was 54. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, File)
Former San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn talks about what it would mean if he is elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame during an interview in San Diego Tuesday, December 26, 2006. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 24: Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn is introduced at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 24, 2011 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 29: Newly inducted Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn, delivers speech to audience during the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, New York on July 29, 2007. (Photo by Paul Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 29: Newly inducted Hall of Famers, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. pose together with Hall of Fame plaques during the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, New York on July 29, 2007. (Photo by Paul Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO - APRIL 10: Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres looks on against the San Francisco Giants on April 10, 2001 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Giants defeated the Padres 11-6. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres watches his two-run home run in the fifth inning against the New York Yankees 17 October in game one of the 1998 World Series at Yankee Stadium in New York. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
BRONX, NY - OCTOBER 17: Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres during Game One of the World Series against the New York Yankees on October 17, 1998 at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres runs during Game One of the National League Division Series against the Houston Astros on September 29, 1998 at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, : Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres shatters his bat 07 June during the third inning of play in their game with the Texas Rangers at The Ballpark in Arlington, TX. Gwynn was out at first base on the play. AFP PHOTO/Paul K. BUCK (Photo credit should read PAUL BUCK/AFP/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 4: Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 4, 1998 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)
Mets Vs Padres. Tony Gwynn winces as his broken toe bothers him. (Photo by Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO - 1987: Tony Gwynn #19 of the San Diego Padres poses for the camera. (Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
Mets vs. San Diego Padres Padres Tony Gwynn at bat.(Photo by Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY, 1985: Outfielder Tony Gwynn #19, of the San Diego Padres, fakes a drag bunt during a game in July, 1985 at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST, 1982: Rookie outfielder Tony Gwynn #19, of the San Diego Padres, warms up prior to a game in August, 1982 at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images)
UNDATED: Tony Gwynn #19 of the San Diego Padres swats at the ball. (Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
San Diego Padres' Tony Gwynn leaps in the air after sliding home safely to score the winning run in the 10th inning as Texas Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez stands by in the MLB All-Star Game at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium July 12, 1994. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
San Diego Padres' Tony Gwynn speaks to a sold-out crowd during a ceremony before the game against the Florida Marlins on Friday, Aug. 13, 1999, in San Diego. The ceremony was held to give San Diego fans a chance to celebrate Gwynn's 3,000th career hit. (AP Photo/Kent C. Horner)
San Diego Padres’ Tony Gwynn warms up in the outfield prior to the game against the Chicago Cubs at night, Saturday, August 6, 1994 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
San Diego Padres Tony Gwynn slides safely home with the winning run past Texas Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez in the 10th inning of the 65th All Star Game Tuesday, July 12, 1994 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburg, The National League won 8-7. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres leaps and New York Mets bullpenners Tom German and Danny Hoop (25) reach but no one can catch a home run by the New York Mets Keith Hernandez. The homer in the third inning Saturday night, Sept. 3, 1983 in New York drove in two runs to give the Mets the lead. (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine)
San Diego Padres' Tony Gwynn, the National League batting champion in 1984, does a twist to make a back hand catch at the teams' spring training camp in Yuma, Arizona Tuesday, March 6, 1985. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
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BY BERNIE WILSON

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Tony Gwynn, the Hall of Famer with a sweet left-handed swing who spent his entire 20-year career with the Padres and was one of San Diego's most beloved athletes, died of cancer Monday. He was 54.

Gwynn, nicknamed "Mr. Padre," had been on a medical leave since late March from his job as baseball coach at San Diego State, his alma mater. He died at a hospital in suburban Poway, agent John Boggs said.

"For more than 30 years, Tony Gwynn was a source of universal goodwill in the national pastime, and he will be deeply missed by the many people he touched," Commissioner Bud Selig said.

Gwynn had two operations for cancer in his right cheek between August 2010 and February 2012. The second surgery was complicated, with surgeons removing a facial nerve because it was intertwined with a tumor inside his right cheek. They grafted a nerve from Gwynn's neck to help him eventually regain facial movement.

Gwynn had said he believed the cancer was from chewing tobacco.

San Francisco Giants third base coach Tim Flannery played a long time with Gwynn and then coached him. Flannery says he'll "remember the cackle to his laugh. He was always laughing, always talking, always happy."

"The baseball world is going to miss one of the greats, and the world itself is going to miss one of the great men of mankind," Flannery said. "He cared so much for other people. He had a work ethic unlike anybody else, and had a childlike demeanor of playing the game just because he loved it so much."

In a rarity in pro sports, Gwynn played his whole career with the Padres, choosing to stay rather than leaving for bigger paychecks elsewhere. His terrific hand-eye coordination made him one of the game's greatest contact hitters. He had 3,141 hits, a career .338 average and won eight NL batting titles. He excelled at hitting singles the other way, through the "5.5 hole" between third base and shortstop.

Gwynn played in the Padres' only two World Series and was a 15-time All-Star.

He homered off the facade at Yankee Stadium off San Diego native David Wells in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series and scored the winning run in the 1994 All-Star Game. He was hitting .394 when a players' strike ended the 1994 season, denying him a shot at becoming the first player to hit .400 since San Diego native Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941.

Gwynn befriended Williams and the two loved to talk about hitting. Gwynn steadied Williams when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the 1999 All-Star Game at Boston's Fenway Park.

Gwynn retired after the 2001 season. He and Cal Ripken Jr. - who spent his entire career with the Baltimore Orioles - were inducted into the Hall of Fame in the class of 2007.

Gwynn was a two-sport star at San Diego State in the late 1970s-early 1980s, playing point guard for the basketball team - he still holds the game, season and career record for assists - and outfielder for the baseball team.

Gwynn always wanted to play in the NBA, until realizing during his final year at San Diego State that baseball would be the ticket to the pros.

"I had no idea that all the things in my career were going to happen," he said shortly before being inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Ripken in 2007. "I sure didn't see it. I just know the good Lord blessed me with ability, blessed me with good eyesight and a good pair of hands, and then I worked at the rest."

He was a third-round draft pick of the Padres in 1981.

After spending parts of just two seasons in the minor leagues, he made his big league debut on July 19, 1982. Gwynn had two hits that night, including a double, against the Philadelphia Phillies. After doubling, Pete Rose, who had been trailing the play, said to Gwynn: "Hey, kid, what are you trying to do, catch me in one night?"

Survivors include his wife, Alicia, daughter Anisha and son Tony Jr., who plays with the Philadelphia Phillies.

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AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.


Hall Of Famer Gwynn Dies At 54

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