Monday, May 20, 2013

#5 Tony Gwynn

About the Front: As Night Owl observed in the comments of Friday's post, Topps really front-loaded the 1993 set with big stars. Tony Gwynn makes for five straight all-timers right from the start. I haven't peeked ahead at the full checklist, but I bet we'll be in for a run of ordinary Joes sooner or later to balance things. As I sat and wondered about the player selection, it occured to me that 1993 marked the first year since 1984 that Topps did not include a "Record Breakers" subset in their flagship baseball product. From 1987 through 1992, these cards led off the set, allowing for a star-studded opener without cutting into the amount of big-name cards available for the rest of their 792. So perhaps Topps was overcompensating for the lack of Record Breakers.

As far as this card goes, Tony Gwynn looks downright svelte. It could just be a flattering photo, bolstered by the thinning effect of the Padres' pinstriped home threads. There are plenty of other Gwynn cards from 1993 that portray the outfielder with a huskier physique.

About the Back: Tony's left hand is barely inserted in his glove at all. No wonder he needed to use both hands to make that catch.

Gwynn really was a remarkably gifted hitter. That .289 average in his 54-game debut in 1982 remained his lowest mark throughout his career, as he retired in 2001 with a .338 lifetime average. His second-lowest was .309, in both 1983 and 1990. I found it odd that they mentioned hit streaks as relatively brief as 15 and 18 games on the back of this card, but indeed Tony peaked with that 25-gamer in 1983. His next-longest streak was 20 straight, lasting from May 20 to June 10 in 1997. It just goes to show you how arbitrary "streaks" can be in sports.

Triple Play:

1. Unfortunately for Tony Gwynn, Jr., his father's keen batting skills don't seem to be a matter of genetics. Gwynn the younger has batted .244/.312/.318 in the major leagues (2006-2012), with his batting average peaking at .270 with the 2009 Padres. As of this writing, Tony Jr. is at .274/.344/.333 in 37 games with the Dodgers' AAA Albuquerque club in 2013.

2. Gwynn has been the head baseball coach at his alma mater, San Diego State University, since July 2002. He took over for his former coach, Jim Dietz. Entering the 2013 season, Tony had accumulated a 290-311 record with the Aztecs, which included a trip to the NCAA Regionals in 2009.

3. During his playing days at SDSU, Tony became the only two-sport all-conference player in Western Athletic Conference (WAC) history. He was a point guard for the Aztec basketball team, setting school records with 221 assists in one season and 590 assists in a four-year career.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Before I really dived into card collecting in 1993, I had a small stash of cards given to me by family members. It was mostly 1986-1990 Topps, and I remember Tony Gwynn's 1988 All-Star card being among them. The guy on that card doesn't even look much like the one on this card. Gwynn is one of those people who looks totally different with facial hair.

Bill James Said: "...Plays right field as well as anyone, although he may move to first." Gwynn stayed in the outfield throughout his career.

On This Date in 1993: May 20. Television viewers bid farewell to fictional bartender and ex-Red Sox pitcher Sam Malone and the rest of the Cheers gang, as the final episode of the popular sitcom aired. The show had an 11-season run from 1982 through 1993.


  1. You can see him with the chew that would later cause him mouth cancer. Can't believe MLB doesn't ban the stuff...

  2. Rob - Baseball's a bit slow on the uptake. I wonder when Bud Selig will get around to resolving the A's-to-San Jose issue.