Gwynn died Monday from cancer at the age of 54.
“The preparation he did before a game, the laughter before and after a game, 0-for-4 or 5-for-5, he was always the same,” said White Sox bench coach Mark Parent, who came up through the San Diego Padres’ farm system with Gwynn. “We were neighbors, my wife taught his kids how to swim. A good guy. His wife and family, they’re going to miss him, and a lot of people around the league whose careers he’s touched, numerous.”
White Sox broadcaster Darrin Jackson played with Gwynn in San Diego from 1989 to 1992.
“When I was in San Diego for three years, Tony and I were best friends,” Jackson said. “We would spend a lot of time together golfing, fishing. I spent time at his house back when Anthony, his son, was just a kid, watching us play ping-pong in his garage. I was obviously very close to him, but that’s who he is -- Tony Gwynn. He wasn’t the superstar, .338 lifetime hitter, he was Tony Gwynn, just the person that is expected to be treated normal.”
Those who knew Gwynn well have talked about him being a normal guy who just happened to have an extraordinary talent.
“One time we rolled up to McDonald’s in his Mercedes Benz and we roll up to the window, window opens and the kid looks out and sees Tony Gwynn in the car and his jaw falls to the floor,” Jackson said. “Tony just went ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s me. Just give me my hamburger.’ To him it was no big deal and that was Tony.
“He used to make me laugh so much. We used to go back and forth all the time. Talking hitting we had nothing in common, but we talked about it anyway.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura knew Gwynn well because they both had the same agent, John Boggs.
“He was good,” Ventura said. “He was just a student of the game. He was really the first guy that I knew when video was taken of your at-bats and watching it, he was really at the forefront of stuff like that, watching videos. It's just sad.”
White Sox slugger Adam Dunn, whose rookie season was in 2001, said he also knew Gwynn well.
“He was one of the best players to ever play the game,” Dunn said. “It’s just sad for baseball, and all your hearts go out to the family.”
Gwynn didn’t talk much about his declining health, but Parent found a way to stay updated. And even that didn’t help to cushion the shock of Monday’s news.
“I don’t have a bad thing to say about the guy,” Parent said. “I have a lot of good things to say about the guy. He’ll be sorely missed by a lot of people. He kind of fell away from returning phone calls lately and stuff like that. That’s when I started missing him.
“I knew something was up. We had the same agent and he kind of kept me informed of what was going on. This came as a shock yesterday, as any death of somebody you know. Tony was quite a guy.”