One of the first baseball card sets I ever owned was the Topps 2000 Series 1 factory set. They were beautifully designed cards. The front had a light silver border with an action shot, the back had career stats and a short blurb. I spent hours looking through that set, first dividing it by alphabetical order, then by team, then by alphabetical team order. I must have read through every card card three or four times.
I remember marveling at Tony Gwynn’s stats. He hit .300, every year. He had 200 hits, every year. He struck out … never. Topps used to highlight the league leaders in a dark, bold, italicized red. The batting average column on the back of Gwynn’s card was eye-popping. I can still see it – .370 in 1987, .394 in 1994, .368 in 1995, .372 in 1997. Gwynn won eight batting titles in all, the most of anyone since Tyrus Raymond Cobb.
Tony Gwynn died today at the age of 54. After reading through some of the sportswriters’ obits, it is clear that he was as good of a man as he was a ballplayer. Of course, I never met Gwynn. I don’t have any first hand accounts of him. I never saw him play live. But I do remember being a kid, hanging out in my room, and looking at his baseball card over and over again. Rest in peace.