Tony Gwynn starts his book, The Art of Hitting, with a quote.
“I don’t like to compare myself to hitters of the past because people always start talking about eras –‘Gwynn’s got to face four different pitchers in a game’ – all that stuff. Forget all that. It’s still the game of baseball. When I’m dead and gone, all that will be left is the numbers They won’t remember how much heart a person had, or how consistent he was, they’ll just look at the numbers. And the numbers will tell them that I won eight batting titles; that I tied Honus Wagner for winning the most The numbers will tell them that Wagner was a .345 lifetime hitter, and that I am a .340 (he finished at .338) lifetime hitter. So who was better? Honus Wagner. That’s how it will be judged.”
If the voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America had judged by the numbers: Gwynn, Cal Ripken and Mark McGwire would be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Only Gwynn and Ripken made it. “I thought all three of us had a chance to get in,” Gwynn said yesterday.
“The fact that Mark didn’t get in, I think it’s more of people making a statement about the Congressional hearings than it is what he was able to do on the baseball field,” Gwynn continued. “I don’t mind saying I think he’s a Hall of Famer. I do.”
Gwynn has 3,141 hits, won eight batting titles and hit .338 over 20 years. On the day he was honored with election to the Hall of Fame, he stood up for another person. He said McGwire “dominated an era.” Of the speculation that the era included some players who used performance-enhancing drugs, Gwynn said “All you all knew. We knew. Players knew. Owners knew. Everybody knew. And we didn’t say anything about it.”
Yesterday, Gwynn said something. He spoke for a man who couldn’t speak for himself.
Thank you, Tony Gwynn, Hall of Famer.