In Poway, one of the surrounding counties of San Diego, a statue was unveiled of Padres Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. It was a wonderful event, and the papers here covered it heavily. One of the things his son, former player Tony Gwynn, Jr. said, was how great it was to have his dad watching and filming his basketball games. I remember a few years when I coached youth basketball, and our team played against his. Another Padres player -- Gary Templeton -- also had a son on the team. It was always interesting watching everyone in the stands, who were watching both their kids playing, and looking over at two baseball greats. Of course, they always stood around signing autographs after the game.
In the Union-Tribune newspaper, one woman talked about being at a spring training game, and how manager Dick Williams would have to yell at Gwynn to get on the field because he was spending so much time signing autographs for the kids,
Broadcasting legend Dick Enberg, a San Diego resident, told a story about how he asked Gwynn once if he ever got tired of the public wanting to shake his hand, take a photo, or ask him to sign something. Gwynn’s response was, “My goal is everybody in San Diego that wants my autograph, will get my autograph.”
Now that’s the attitude all celebs should have!
Living out here means I met Gwynn on several occasions. As a teenager working at McDonald’s, our owner somehow talked him into doing a promotion where he came in and served breakfast for people. I came in and watched him work, but didn’t get his signature at that time.
I sang the National Anthem at a Padres game (long story). He was standing by the tunnel as I walked out. He said, “Good job.” As I thanked him, I noticed he was being asked to sign an autograph for a security guard. Who knew they asked for autographs? Aren’t they doing a job? The Padres gave me an 8x10 photo singing the National Anthem. It was always my goal to have him sign it, writing “Don’t quit your day job!”
When I was the sports director of a radio station, I got to interview him. He took a quick photo with all the reporters interviewing him at this charity event, and it was put in a commemorative frame for him to sign. At that time on the air, I was using the name “Stryker MacGuire.” He laughed for about 2 minutes upon hearing my on-air name (maybe the word “strike” just made him laugh, because he did it so seldom).
Another time, Mother’s cookies had these incredible glossy Padres baseball cards. On the back were a few stats, and a section that said “autograph.” I had Gwynn sign that another time I met him.
A friend of mine that became a police officer, was on his first week working. He and his partner saw Gwynn putting gas into his Mercedes (with a personalized played that said “PADS 19”). His partner ran over and said, “Oh man, I can’t believe you’re here! Give me your autograph.”
Gwynn snapped, “A ‘please’ would be nice,” before signing a piece of paper. That may be the only time I’ve heard of Gwynn getting angry with somebody. Wait...strike that (no pun intended). I witnessed another moment. I was dating this woman from Germany, and she loved baseball. I took her to a San Diego State game. Gwynn was their coach at the time. He came over to the railing and was signing autographs. My girlfriend waited patiently, and after Gwynn signed about 15 items he snapped at one guy, “Stop putting pictures out there. I’ve already signed 4 or 5 for you. Let other people get a chance.”
The guy kept sticking things out in front of him, so Gwynn said, “That’s it, I’m done. This guy keeps shoving stuff in my face, so now he’s ruined it for everyone.”
She never got his autograph; although I did give her an autographed picture of The Doors guitarist Robby Kreiger, since that’s her favorite band. Ahhh...the things we do for love.
It’s a shame we lost Gwynn so young. As the best hitter the Padres ever had, and one of the classiest guys baseball ever had...it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever have another like him.
Tomorrow I’m driving to Poway to check out the statue.