Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, the ebullient slugger who was once the face of the San Diego Padres, has died of cancer at the age of 54.
The Padres said Gwynn died in hospital in the San Diego area. He had fought salivary gland cancer for years.
Gwynn, who over 20 years with San Diego came to be known as Mr Padre, belted 3141 hits in his Hall of Fame career, boasting a .338 career batting average when he retired in 2001.
The Padres, the only pro club he ever played for, retired his number 19 in 2004 and he was inducted into the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 in his first year of eligibility.
After his major league playing days were over, Gwynn took a job coaching the team at his Alma Mater, San Diego State University.
During his playing career, Gwynn won seven Silver Slugger Awards and five Gold Glove Awards.
His eight batting titles are tied for second-most in Major League Baseball history.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig called Gwynn “the greatest Padre ever and one of the most accomplished hitters that our game has ever known”, also recalling Gwynn’s “exuberant personality and genial disposition in life”.
“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,” Selig said on Monday.
Tony Gwynn junior, who was a high school and San Diego State star player before embarking on his own pro baseball career, used Twitter to mourn his father.
“Today I lost my Dad, my best friend and my mentor,” the younger Gwynn said.
“I’m gonna miss u so much pops. I’m gonna do everything in my power to continue to … make u proud! Love u pops!”
Gwynn believed chewing tobacco he used for many years during his career led to his cancer.