I'm posting this a day later than I would've liked, since yesterday was the one year anniversary of Tony Gwynn's death. You don't have to be a Padre fan to know or imagine how beloved he is by the Friar faithful.
He's pretty popular in the collecting community as well. Check out the Topps Series 2 checklist, and all but one of the inserts is of Tony, and in some of their other sets (like Archives from a few years ago), he was the only Padre included.
Speaking of Archives, I haven't found any in stores yet, but I've seen the images on eBay. Tony's card is in the 1983 design, which is the year of his rookie card. While that's a decent tribute, the best tribute I've seen is from this year's Donruss set.
Not only does Tony grace the wrapper, he also has a five card insert set that showcase some of his accomplishments. Here are all of those cards.
Back before online balloting and whatnot, being named to the All-Star team was a little bigger deal than it was now. I don't really have a problem with how things are now (you go Royals fans, as long as you're not doing any Cardinal style hacking), but that he was able to get voted in ever despite playing in small market San Diego is pretty impressive. But what happened in '88?
I've never made it to Cooperstown, though I do have hopes that I'll make it out there someday. It must've been pretty awesome to see Tony get inducted along with Cal Ripken Jr., two guys who were with one team their entire career. Oh, and he had the seventh highest voting percentage ever.
The bit about Gwynn being a musician delivering the hits is pretty cheesy, but I do like seeing the number of hits he has. Man, that's a lot. Bums me out that he's ONE behind Robin Yount, but I guess it's fitting that he's number 19 on the all time list. For now, at least. Alex Rodriguez is the only one within striking distance, at number 29 all time, 146 hits back.
Eight batting titles is probably the most impressive of these accomplishments, though not all batting titles are created equal. His most impressive performance was in 1994, when he hit .394 (DAMN YOU STRIKE SHORTENED SEASON!), but in 1988, he batted a measly .313. Must've been a down year in the National League.
Speaking of batting averages… uh, yeah, Tony's was pretty good. I don't feel that I really need to elaborate on this one.
As far as cards go, these aren't the most visually striking cards, but I like seeing the 19, I like that all the photos show him batting (although he did win five gold gloves). The foil and gloss is a pretty good contrast to the rest of the Donruss set (which is more than a little bland, though I still like it… enough), and the backs look pretty good, as far as backs without regular stats go.
Anyways, Tony Gwynn is awesome. Though he's gone, he lives on in the heart of San Diego fans, as well as in the binders and boxes of card collectors.
Rest in Peace, Tony. God bless ya.