An estimated 23,000 fans packed Petco Park on Thursday night to remember Mr. Padre — Tony Gwynn — who died June 16 at age 54.
With broadcaster Ted Leitner as emcee, a right-field ceremony saw celebrities of politics and sports pay their final respects to the Hall of Fame slugger who made San Diego proud. Mayor Kevin Faulconer mourned along with Steve Garvey. Fellow Padres great Trevor Hoffman spoke along with Mr. October — Reggie Jackson. Father Joe Carroll didn’t speak, but former Gwynn teammate Damian Jackson did.
John Boggs talked about his honor of being Gwynn’s agent, and new SDSU baseball coach Mark Martinez spoke, along with county Supervisor Ron Roberts.
Thousands of fans streamed through the gates before the 7:19 p.m. start as if ready for a championship game. Hot dogs and popcorn were sold, but no beer. Soulful music mixed with echoes of Gwynn’s laugh brought tears and more laughter to those who gathered a final time to chant “Tony, Tony, Tony.”
Gwynn was the head baseball coach at San Diego State at the time of his death following a long battle with cancer. The eight-time National League batting champion and right-fielder blamed his salivary gland cancer on his career-long habit of chewing tobacco.
Since his death, several major league players have sworn off smokeless tobacco products, including former Aztecs Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals and Addison Reed of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Former teammates and opponents, Major League Baseball officials and San Diego civic leaders have praised Gwynn’s talent and character, while hundreds of fans have left flowers, balloons, pictures, notes and memorabilia at the base of a statue of the prolific hitter in Petco Park.
The night ended with more chants of “Tony, Tony, Tony.”
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