Sure, you may say, he played his entire career with the Padres, but he didn't get his start in the big leagues until 1982. In my rainy-day state of mind, I would kindly remind you that Tony began his career with the expansion-year 1969 Padres. Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third round of the 1968 draft out of San Diego State College. As we all know, San Diego State wasn't called a University until the early 70's, well in to Tony's historic career. Snatched from the Dodgers in the expansion draft, Tony has led the Padres to six world titles. Tony's career has had many ups and downs. The highlights include:
- 32 National League batting titles
- 36 All-Star game appearances
- 4 Most Valuable Player awards
- 23 Gold Gloves
- .338 career batting average
- 7,020 career hits
- 1,385 doubles
- 2,642 runs batted in
The only lowlight has been his four year retirement from 1983-86. As point guard for San Diego and Los Angeles Clippers, Tony led the league in assists only once (82-83 season- 11.4 assists per game.)
As Tony prepares to enter his 40th season in Major League Baseball, I will spend the next few weeks recapping some of Tony's greatest moments and milestones.
First up, Tony's rookie card:
I have several of Tony's rookie card in my collection, but my most prized possesion is THE BIG ONE!!! I am the proud owner of a 2nd year Gwynn! Back in '94 I sold my car and bought this bad-boy. Even though for the next two years I had to take the bus to and from college (a two-day trip,) it was worth it.
Tony's second year card is even more coveted by collectors than his rookie card. The condition sensitive black borders make finding cards in excellent or better condition next to impossible.
1971 Topps - Tony Gwynn #280
High condition Gwynn second year cards fetch upwards of $5,000 when seen at auction. Despite the rumors of magic markered edges, the famous McNall/Gretzky (PSA 8) sold at Sotheby's last June for $27,750.
Counterfeit examples, so common in the late '80s and early '90s, helped coin the term "real Mr. Padre" to describe anything that was authentic. The Upper Deck corporation still uses "real Mr. Padre" to describe autographs signed in the presence of their authenticators.
The market for the counterfeits is still high, as older collectors look to fill the holes in their 1971 sets without endangering their childrens' dreams of a college education. The "cut-T" counterfeit is the most impressive and most famous example of the fake Gwynn cards. The FBI estimated that in 2005, 50% of all professionally graded, 2nd year Tony Gwynn cards were in fact "cut-T" counterfeits.
Mine is the real Mr. Padre... is yours?