Tony Gwynn (1982-2001)

Captain Video

 “One of the things I’m proudest about is that I played for one team.  My baseball card looks awesome because it has ‘San Diego’ all the way down.”- Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn was a rarity in his day – a player who spent his entire career for one team – in this case, the San Diego Padres.  He is undoubtedly the greatest player in franchise history, winning five Gold Gloves and collecting over 3,000 hits.  For five consecutive seasons, he hit over .350, a feat accomplished by Ty Cobb (11), Rogers Hornsby (6), and Al Simmons (5).  He tied Honus Wagner with eight batting titles in the National League.  Gwynn’s bat control and sharp eye were legendary – how else to explain the fact that in over 9,200 at bats, he only struck out 434 times!

Gwynn, born and raised in San Diego, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.  Today he is the baseball coach for his alma mater, San Diego State, where he also was the Aztecs’ star point guard on the basketball team.

Reggie Jackson (1967-1987)

Mr. October

“The only reason I don’t like playing in the World Series is I can’t watch myself play.”
- Reggie Jackson

Reggie Jackson helped lead his teams to eleven post-season appearances and five World Series titles.  A prolific power hitter, Jackson clubbed 563 home runs in his career, none more dramatic than when Jackson was on a national stage.  In the 1971 All Star game, he hit a massive shot over the roof of Tiger Stadium.  But his Mr. October moniker became his identity during the 1977 World Series with the New York Yankees when, in Game Six, he hit three home runs in a row off three different Dodger pitchers on their first pitch.  Jackson and Babe Ruth are still the only players to have hit three round trippers in a World Series game.

Jackson is best known for playing for the Oakland A’s and the Yankees, but his irascible behavior sometimes wore thin on teammates, manager and ownership, leading him to play for five different teams.  At times his glove was suspect and he struck out frequently (he held the career strikeout record when he retired), but few could doubt that he would shine when the spotlight was on.  As one person said, “Just as nature fills a vacuum, Reggie fills a spotlight.”

Paul Waner (1926-1945)

Big Poison

“I saw a lot of good hitters, but I never saw a better one than Waner.  I mean, I once threw a side arm spitter right into his belly and he hit it into the upper deck.”- Burleigh Grimes

Playing along with his talented brother, Lloyd (Little Poison), for many years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Paul Waner hit over .300 in his first twelve seasons and ended his playing days with over 3,000 hits and a .333 career.  The Waner brothers hold the mark for most hits by siblings (5,611).

Waner was also an excellent fielder, prompting the legendary writer, Red Smith, to say, “Because his hitting overshadowed everything else, [Waner’s] defensive skill is rarely mentioned.  But he was a superior outfielder and one of the swiftest runners in the National League with a wonderful arm.”

What makes Waner so remarkable was that he was a heavy drinker throughout his career, seeming to play better with a hangover.  When Pirates management urged him to stop drinking, he hit only .280, the only time his average dipped below .300.  Waner’s contemporary, Casey Stengel, once quipped, “He [Waner] had to be a very graceful player, because he could slide without breaking the bottle on his hip.”

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