Tony Gwynn’s Memorial Tribute at Petco Park.

Tony Gwynn on video screen at Petco's Park at the Park.
Tony Gwynn on video screen at Petco’s Park at the Park.

Tonight I joined thousands of other San Diegans at Petco Park to honor the late Tony Gwynn, the greatest Padres player ever…and one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the sport.

I apologize that my camera takes very poor long distance shots. There were many speakers paying tribute to Tony, and my photos of the distant stage and podium came out terribly.

A few photographs seem to have captured the spirit of the occasion. Here they are…

San Diegans pay their respects at the Tony Gwynn statue.
San Diegans pay their respects at the Tony Gwynn statue.
Flowers, messages and memorabilia from loving fans.
Flowers, messages and memorabilia from loving fans.
Child reaches up to touch number 19.
Child reaches up to touch number 19.
Padres fans enter the stands before Tony Gwynn memorial begins.
Padres fans enter the stands before Tony Gwynn memorial begins.
Anthony Keith Gwynn, the greatest Padre ever.
Anthony Keith Gwynn, the greatest Padre ever.
Thanks for the memories, Mr. Padre.
Thanks for the memories, Mr. Padre.
Thousands gather long before the memorial tribute starts.
Thousands gather long before the memorial tribute starts.
Thank you signs and poignant gestures from the crowd.
Thank you signs and poignant gestures from the crowd.
White doves are released near the stage as program begins.
White doves are released near the stage as program begins.

Nineteen doves were released after a choir opened the service, singing: “I’m not here, but I’m not far. My spirit lives on.”

Ted Leitner remembers Tony and introduces many guests.
Ted Leitner remembers Tony and introduces many guests.

Ted Leitner, long-time Padres radio announcer, said that we’d never forget the greatest hitter of his generation. He then asked the crowd to provide one last standing ovation. During the memorial tribute, Ted played a recording of Tony’s unforgettable laugh from a cell phone.

There were scores of distinguished guests, and several speakers remembered Tony Gwynn for the cheering crowd.

Reggie Jackson, Mr. October, gave a Yankee salute to Tony and his family. San Diego’s mayor spoke, and so did the Chief Operating Officer of Major League Baseball. Tony La Russa and Joe Torre stood up in the VIP section to loud applause. On the big video screen, tributes were offered by former teammates and opponents alike. In old videos, Tony Gwynn was treated with respect by contemporary baseball greats, including Mike Schmidt, Cal Ripken, Greg Maddux, Tommy Lasorda and many others.

Every guest speaker at the memorial seemed to agree that Tony was an inspiration to all those around him. To many he was a mentor, and to all he was a friend.

Tony Gwynn is remembered as a great player and great man.
Tony Gwynn is remembered as a great player and great man.
After the ceremony, number 19 remains on field.
After the ceremony, number 19 remains on field.
Petco Park slowly empties after tribute ends.
Petco Park slowly empties after tribute ends.

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Pics of big Tony Gwynn flag on San Diego Bay.

Big Tony Gwynn flag flies above tall ship America at Maritime Museum.
The big Tony Gwynn flag flies above tall ship America at Maritime Museum.

Both before and after work today, I strolled over to the Embarcadero to take a few pics of the big, 50 foot Tony Gwynn flag. It’s been flying for a couple days from the mast of America, a tall ship owned by Next Level Sailing. America is a replica of the yacht that won the original America’s Cup.

The flag in the late afternoon was fluttering in the sea breeze and glowing brightly in the San Diego sunlight. It seemed a perfect symbol of Tony Gwynn himself. The great, always smiling Padres hitter was not only a superstar, but was like sunshine on a perfect day.

I took the first photo in the early morning, and the others in the late afternoon.

Flag is flown in memory of deceased Tony Gwynn, number 19.
Flag is flown in memory of deceased Tony Gwynn, number 19.
Tony Gwynn flag on San Diego Bay seen between Star of India masts.
Tony Gwynn flag on San Diego Bay seen between Star of India masts.
Star of India figurehead faces 19, uniform number of Tony Gwynn.
Star of India figurehead faces 19, uniform number of Tony Gwynn.

During my walk along the Embarcadero on June 29, I happened to notice a big Tony Gwynn Padres jersey hanging from the roof of the County Administration Building!

Tony Gwynn jersey on County Administration Building.
Tony Gwynn jersey on County Administration Building.

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Photos of Padres fans loving late Tony Gwynn.

Balloons spell out 19, Tony Gwynn's number.
Balloons honor 19, Baseball Hall of Fame player Tony Gwynn’s number.

This morning Tony Gwynn passed away. Nearly everyone in San Diego loved Mr. Padre. Count me among them.

I drove past Petco Park’s beautiful Park at the Park just before noon and wandered in over the green grass just to see his statue. A crowd of Padres fans had gathered. Flowers and other tributes formed a growing shrine at the base of his sculpture. The big screen was showing interviews and memorable plays from the amazing baseball career of Tony Gwynn. I noted several people were wiping their eyes. I had to do a bit of blinking, myself.

Tony Gwynn worked hard and good things happened.
Tony Gwynn worked hard and good things happened.
Flowers decorate the base of Tony Gwynn statue.
Flowers decorate the base of Tony Gwynn statue.
Padres fans watch the big smiling face of Tony Gwynn.
Padres fans watch the big smiling face of Tony Gwynn.
Father with child wipes tears from his eyes.
Father with child wipes tears from his eyes.

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Statue of Padres batting champ Tony Gwynn.

statue of padres superstar tony gwynn

A good argument can be made that the most-liked person in San Diego is Tony Gwynn. He’s one of the friendliest, most good-natured guys you’ll ever find, not to mention one of the best hitters ever in the history of baseball. He was voted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible. He’s also got a great statue in East Village at the center of Petco’s Park at the Park. You’re looking at it!

Tony Gwynn, affectionately called Mr. Padre, played 20 years for the San Diego Padres, winning eight batting titles and five Gold Glove awards. He appeared in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game 15 times! Today he’s the head baseball coach for San Diego State University.

Tony Gwynn statue with Showley Bros. Candy Factory in background.
Tony Gwynn statue with Showley Bros. Candy Factory in background.
Inspirational words of Tony Gwynn's father.
Inspirational words of Tony Gwynn’s father.

A quote from Tony’s father Charles appears on the statue’s base:  “If you work hard good things will happen.”  These words inspired one of the greatest hitters in the history of professional baseball.

UPDATE…

Here are a few closer photos that I took years later, after the tragic passing of Tony.

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