5 things to remember about Tony Gwynn

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5 things to remember about Tony Gwynn
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) -- There were two certainties about Tony Gwynn: He could hit a baseball like few other major leaguers, and he was going to laugh.

Gwynn was a craftsman at the plate, whose sweet left-handed swing made him one of baseball's greatest hitters.

The Hall of Famer died Monday of oral cancer, a disease he attributed to years of chewing tobacco. He was 54.

Any knowledgeable fan can recite Gwynn's key stats. He had 3,141 hits - 18th on the all-time list - a career .338 average and won eight batting titles to tie Honus Wagner's NL record.

There was far more to the man.

In a rarity in pro sports, Gwynn played his whole career with the Padres, choosing to stay in the city where he was a two-sport college star rather than leaving for bigger paychecks elsewhere.

He was loyal, generous and approachable. He smiled a lot. It didn't take much to get him to laugh his hearty laugh.

Gwynn loved San Diego. San Diego loved "Mr. Padre" right back.

His death left even casual fans grieving.

"Our city is a little darker today without him, but immeasurably better because of him," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement.

Five things to remember about Gwynn:

HIS CRAFT: After spending parts of just two seasons in the minors, he made his big league debut on July 19, 1982. Gwynn had two hits that night. After Gwynn doubled, career hits leader Pete Rose, who been trailing the play, said to him: "Hey, kid, what are you trying to do, catch me in one night?"

On Monday, Rose recalled Gwynn's work ethic and his pioneering use of video to study his at-bats after every game.

"Every day you went to the ballpark in San Diego and we used to go 2:30 or 3 o'clock, Tony would be out there hitting, religiously, every day," Rose said.

"Fifty-four years old is way too young."

THE LAUGH: Former Padres teammate Tim Flannery recalls Gwynn as "always laughing, always talking, always happy."

It didn't take much for Gwynn to cackle or break into a horse laugh.

"He had a work ethic unlike anybody else, and had a childlike demeanor of playing the game just because he loved it so much," said Flannery, third base coach for the San Francisco Giants.

THE 5.5 HOLE: Gwynn loved to hit the other way, through the hole between third base and shortstop.

"All I keep thinking of when I think of Tony Gwynn is that line drive base hit to left field, or the one-hopper in the hole at shortstop to left field," Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully said. "He hit the ball wherever it was pitched, and he was just a genius with the bat, without a doubt."

SAN DIEGO STATE: Gwynn had been on a medical leave since late March from his job as baseball coach at San Diego State, his alma mater. He called it his dream job, one he began right after retiring from the Padres following the 2001 season. He coached his son, Tony Jr., who's with the Philadelphia Phillies.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Gwynn played point guard for the SDSU basketball team - he still holds the game, season and career record for assists - and in the outfield on the baseball team.

He was drafted by both the Padres (third round) and San Diego Clippers (10th round) on the same day in 1981. As much as he loved basketball, baseball was his future.

Texas' Augie Garrido, the winningest college baseball coach, said at the College World Series on Monday that he tried to recruit Gwynn when he was coaching at Cal State Fullerton, but told him he wouldn't be able to play baseball and basketball.

Because baseball would be well underway by the time basketball ended, "You'd have to be one hell of a baseball player to be break into the lineup," Garrido recalled telling Gwynn.

"He decided to go to San Diego State. After he won his seventh batting title at Dodger Stadium on the last day of the season, he broke that story to the LA Times. He didn't leave out one bit of information about how stupid I was. That's why my recruiting genius is limited," said Garrido, who added he and Gwynn had a good relationship.

TERRIFIC TONY: Gwynn struck out only 434 times in 9,288 career at-bats. He played in San Diego's only two World Series - batting a combined .371 - and was a 15-time All-Star. He had a home run in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series off fellow San Diegan David Wells and scored the winning run in the 1994 All-Star Game despite a bum knee.

Gwynn never hit below .309 in a full season. He spread his batting titles from 1984, when he batted .351, to 1997, when he hit .372.

Gwynn 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.

REMEMBERING TONY GWYNN

Roger Clemens reflects on what No. 19 meant to him and his boys.

Clemens Shocked By Gwynn's Death

Pete Rose said Gwynn was good for baseball.

Rose: Tony Was Great For Baseball

And, finally, former MLB player Doug Glanville recognizes Gwynn as an 'ambassador' for baseball.

Hall Of Famer Gwynn Dies At 54

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