On eve of induction, Gwynn feeling calm
Padres legend admits he'll be 'emotional' at ceremony
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Maybe the Saturday morning golf game with other Hall of Fame members helped Tony Gwynn ease past months, weeks and days of happy turmoil.
"A calmness has come over me," Gwynn said. "This place is unbelievable. To be with these guys is truly a blessing."
The election of Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. by the Baseball Writers' Association of America was announced early last January. Finally, after a lengthy preamble, the final act comes Sunday with their induction into the Cooperstown shrine.
Gwynn, the magician of contact, won eight National League batting titles and hit .371 in two World Series and was a 15-time All-Star. That he did with grace and style. But speaking in front of what could be 50,000 fans on the lawn here will be something else.
"I can hit a baseball all day long in front of that many people but, to deliver a speech, it's a little bit different. For me, that's a little bit out of my realm," Gwynn said at a media conference.
"But I'm hoping I'll be fine [Sunday]."
For reporters who covered Gwynn in his 20 years with the San Diego Padres, he was a guy who could talk and talk and talk about hitting a baseball. That's the approach he plans to take on Sunday.
"It's baseball," he said. "I'm going to go out and try to have a conversation about the game of baseball. The things I did, why I did them, the people that helped me."
Whatever those people did, they did right. Gwynn hit .338 in his career. Only in his first season, 1982, was he below .300. Only he and Honus Wagner, the bow-legged Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer, had 16 straight .300 seasons with a minimum of 400 at-bats or 500 plate appearances.
Wagner spent his entire career with the Pirates, just as Gwynn did with the Padres.
"When you stay at a place that long, all of sudden you became the face of the franchise. You became that guy. You mention the San Diego Padres and my name comes up. That's a cool position to be in and I'm happy to be that guy," Gwynn said.
"I'm very proud to be going into the Hall of Fame with an 'SD' on my hat."
Ripken has been involved in many projects with Gwynn since their election. The Orioles' legend found that Gwynn's cheery, outgoing personality was genuine.
"My instincts were really good from the first time we went to New York after the announcement on Jan. 9, this is going to be a joy, this is going to be a pleasure going in with Tony," Ripken said.
They are interested to see what their images look like to the Hall of Fame plaques.
"I'd like someone to give me some hair," Ripken joked.
A reporter said he'd learned the artist had worked from old photos of Gwynn.
"When you said old photos, I thought, 'Uh-oh, bad Afro, bad mustache,'" Gwynn said. "That's scary, man."
That wasn't the case, he was told. The image would convey Gwynn's joy about the game.
"However it looks Sunday, it's going to be awesome," Gwynn said. "It's going to be awesome."
He knows the ultimate homage to his career will be special.
"I'm going to be emotional, there's no doubt about it," Gwynn said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.