Photo Credit: Getty
SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego Padres Hall of Fame slugger Tony Gwynn, the head baseball coach at San Diego State University, died today following a battle with salivary gland cancer, which he blamed on his career-long habit of chewing tobacco. He was 54.
Gwynn died at Pomerado Hospital in Poway, the San Diego Padres announced.
An outfielder who came to be known as Mr. Padre, Gwynn belted 3,141 hits in his 20 seasons with Padres, had a .338 career batting average and was a 15- time All Star. His playing career ended in 2001, and he was subsequently picked as head baseball coach for SDSU, his alma mater.
During his playing career, Gwynn won seven Silver Slugger Awards and five Gold Glove Awards. His eight batting titles tied for second-most in Major League Baseball history.
Gwynn was inducted into the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 -- the first year he became eligible. The Padres -- the only professional baseball team for which he ever played -- retired his number, 19, in 2004.
Gwynn had a malignant tumor removed from his right cheek in 2009. He said he chewed smokeless tobacco throughout his career with the Padres and for many years after and blamed the substance for his condition.
The cancer returned twice, and in 2012 he underwent radiation treatment in an effort to shrink the tumor, according to the Padres. He had surgery that year, in which the nerve that the tumor was wrapped around had to be replaced with one from his shoulder.
Gwynn missed the second half of the recently completed season while he continued to deal with health problems. He had been on medical leave since March, but signed a one-year extension only Wednesday.
``We are terribly sad to say goodbye to our teammate, our friend and a legend, Tony Gwynn,'' a Padres statement said via Twitter. ``Rest in peace, Mr. Padre.''
Shortly after Gwynn's death was announced, city officials and several others issued statements on social media sites mourning the loss.
``Very sad day for our City,'' City Councilman Scott Sherman said. ``My thoughts and prayers go out to Tony Gwynn's family.''
City Councilman David Alvarez said the city was terribly sad to say goodbye to a teammate, a friend and a legend. ``Rest in peace, Mr. Padre,'' he said.