BOSTON (CBS) – Major League Baseball lost one of the greatest pure hitters of all time on Monday.
Longtime San Diego Padre and Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn lost his battle with cancer at the young age of 54. Forever a magician with the bat, Gwynn finished his 20-year playing career with a .338 batting average, 3,141 hits, and eight batting titles.
CBS Sports baseball insider Jon Heyman spoke to Andy Gresh, Scott Zolak, and Dan Shaughnessy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Gresh & Zo to discuss the devastating news.
“Very sad. Just a terrific guy and an unbelievable hitter,” said Heyman. “He made himself into a great, great ballplayer. I believe he was pick number 58 or 59 in the country out of San Diego State. Wanted to be a basketball player as a kid out of Long Beach and due to practicality, as he said, he became a baseball player. At 6’3″, he took a big pounding in basketball and just felt he would have more success as a baseball player. And ultimately, he was one of the most successful hitters of all time.”
Before his death, Gwynn attributed the cancer in his salivary glands to his addiction to smokeless tobacco. Heyman discussed how baseball has yet to solve its smokeless tobacco problem.
“It’s been going on for a century now with the smokeless tobacco and the progress has been limited. Teams are not allowed to provide the smokeless tobacco, of course that prevents nobody from getting smokeless tobacco. I saw the LA Times did a good story talking to Josh Hamilton and Josh Beckett and some of those stars out there who use smokeless tobacco and can’t help it. Beckett basically admitted he’s an idiot for doing that. I think, ‘Good for him for admitting it’, but he also admitted he’s not likely to give it up.”
Shaughnessy pointed out that some baseball people, like Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, only feel the need to use smokeless tobacco when they are around the game.
Listen to the full interview below and get Heyman’s thoughts on Gwynn’s career, smokeless tobacco use in baseball, and other recent MLB headlines: