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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Tony Gwynn could handle a bat like few other major leaguers, whether it was driving the ball through the “5.5 hole” between third base and shortstop or hitting a home run off the facade in Yankee Stadium in the World Series.
He was a craftsman at the plate, whose sweet left-handed swing made him one of baseball’s greatest hitters.
Gwynn loved San Diego.
San Diego loved “Mr. Padre” right back.
Gwynn, a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest athletes in San Diego’s history, died Monday of oral cancer, a disease he attributed to years of chewing tobacco. He was 54.
“Our city is a little darker today without him but immeasurably better because of him,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement.
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 star in college, rather than leaving for bigger paychecks elsewhere.
His terrific hand-eye coordination made him one of the game’s greatest pure hitters. 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.
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