Tony Gwynn, the greatest pure hitter of his generation whose perfect left-handed swing won him eight batting titles and a litany of admirers across baseball, died Monday after years of battling cancer. He was 54.
Gwynn, who spent his entire 20-year career with the San Diego Padres, underwent multiple surgeries over the past four years to remove cancerous tumors from his mouth, blaming a smokeless tobacco habit. He took a leave of absence from his job as San Diego State's baseball coach in March to undergo further treatment.
Gwynn finished his major league career with 3,141 hits and a .338 batting average, the highest mark for a hitter since Ted Williams' career started in 1939. Gwynn arrived in the major leagues in 1982, a year after the Padres drafted him out of San Diego State, and never stopped hitting, spraying singles throughout stadiums across baseball, adding power as he grew into a 15-time All-Star and striking out at an almost inconceivable rate today, just 434 for his career over 9,288 at-bats.
The right-fielder was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 with one of the highest voting percentages ever at 97.61 (532 of 545 ballots).