Of course Tony Gwynn was inducted with the only other player in the past twenty years who could match his class, his dignity and his dedication...the great Baltimore shortstop Cal Ripken:
What a day.
You don't have to be a hardcore baseball fan to appreciate what Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken have meant to their communties. In today's sports world where we have to sift through the garbage of steroid abusers, point-shaving referees and animal-abusing quarterbacks, it was an absolute joy to celebrate what sports should be.
Consider what our perception of athletes is these days. Compare that to Cal and Tony:
Of course with Cooperstown, New York being so much closer to Baltimore than San Diego, Oriole fans outnumbered Padre fans about 3 to 1. But the roar for each player was equally loud. Why? Because Oriole fans had the class to recognize that Tony Gwynn was everything to San Diego that Cal Ripken has been to Baltimore. Everyone I talked to agreed that Sunday was special in a way it had never been before and would never be again.
In fact, someone described it as the "perfect storm" hitting Cooperstown.
From Monday's San Diego Union Tribune:
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – If it were simply a baseball game, even the biggest baseball game of his life, he could have played it cool in the hottest heat. Throw him a change, a change of any kind, and he could handle it with nary a flinch.
Precisely because he was so adept as a hitter, Tony Gwynn yesterday was sitting in a bus full of baseball legends as it approached the Clark Sports Center, site of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for him and Cal Ripken Jr.
Gwynn had barely absorbed the stunning view of 75,000 people assembled in the duo's honor – by far the largest crowd ever for an induction ceremony – when he learned that the lineup had just been changed because of threatening weather. Instead of going third in the order, his customary and assigned spot, Gwynn was up first yesterday. Leadoff. With only minutes to go.
Tony however handled the change in order just fine. And in typical Gwynn fashion, he gave credit to everyone else:
As he said throughout the lead-up to this first enshrinement of a player who spent his entire career with the Padres, Gwynn wasn't up there alone. Indeed, the thousands of fans who made the odyssey from San Diego nudged and cajoled him through his speech of nearly 28 minutes, punctuating his career recollections and words of gratitude with their applause and chants of “To-ny! To-ny! To-ny!”
“I played for one organization, the San Diego Padres, and when this day started out today, I thought I was going to go third,” Gwynn told the crowd, which was informed that the induction of Gwynn and Ripken would be moved up as defense against thunderstorms that were forecast but never arrived. “I thought I was going to get to hear what other people said about their teams and their towns and their cities. I only know one way – that's the Padre way.
“I wore brown. I wore the brown and gold. I wore the blue and orange. I didn't get a chance to wear the (current) 'sand' and whatever color blue you want to call that, but I'm proud as heck to be a San Diego Padre. I played for one team. I played in one town.”
Padre fans traveled 3,000 miles to honor Gwynn.
“With our teams, in our cities, people trusted us,” Gwynn said. “They trusted how we played the game and how we conducted ourselves. They trusted us to play the game right and take care of business the right way. They can look back on our careers and see that we did things the right way. There's no question about that. "
Thank you, Tony.