Archive for Monday, October 8, 2001

Gwynn’s career comes to end

October 8, 2001

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— Tony Gwynn's 20-year career ended with one swing and a groundout.

With the crowd of 60,103 hoping for one final hit from the future Hall of Famer, the San Diego Padre instead grounded sharply to shortstop on the first pitch he saw from Colorado reliever Jose Jimenez in the ninth inning Sunday.

Gwynn ran it out, put his helmet down in the dugout and then walked along the bench, hugging each of his teammates.

With that, he headed into retirement as a big leaguer. Next up is a job as baseball coach at his alma mater, San Diego State, following the Aztecs' 2002 season.

The Padres failed to send Gwynn out a winner, losing 14-5. The Rockies hit five home runs, two by Juan Uribe, and the Padres committed four errors. Uribe drove in five runs.

During a postgame ceremony, Gwynn addressed the crowd for about 17 minutes, then circled the field, shaking hands with fans along the first- and third-base lines and waving to those in the outfield.

"It's been unbelievable," he said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd be standing here after 20 years feeling good about a decision I made a year and a half ago. But I do. I feel I've done all I can do as a baseball player. Like my older brother, he's been a teacher for more than 20 years, now it's my turn to teach."

Besides seeing Gwynn's final game, the crowd got a bonus Rickey Henderson's 3,000th hit. Henderson became the 25th member of that exclusive club with a double in the first inning.

After the game, the Padres players who were in the starting lineup for Gwynn's big league debut on July 19, 1982, took the field. Taking Gwynn's spot in center field was his son, Anthony, now an outfielder with San Diego State.

Gwynn was presented with a motorcycle by his teammates, and the Padres announced that their new downtown ballpark, scheduled to open in 2004, will be located at No. 19 Tony Gwynn Drive.

Gwynn has been reduced to pinch-hitting duties because of torn cartilage in his right knee.

He leaves the game with eight NL batting titles, a .338 lifetime average and 3,141 hits, good for 17th on the all-time list. He finished one hit behind Robin Yount.

His RBI double on Saturday ensured Gwynn that he'd finish with his 19th straight season of hitting .300 or better, extending his NL record. He hit .324 this year.

Gwynn's goodbye came a day after Cal Ripken also got his sendoff in a loss, with his Baltimore Orioles falling 5-1 to the Boston Red Sox.

Before the top of the sixth, a video tribute from Ripken was played on the scoreboard.

"We are certainly two of the lucky ones. We both got to play our whole career with the same team," Ripken said. "I hope today is a real happy day for you."

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