Day of celebration continues for Gwynn
Hall of Famer meets with media, Letterman in New York
NEW YORK -- Tony Gwynn's 24-hour wild ride ended Wednesday with an appearance along with Cal Ripken Jr. on "The Late Show With David Letterman."From the moment he received the call that he had been elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, there hasn't been a moment to rest. "[Tuesday] was some kind of day," said Gwynn's wife, Alicia, who was with him every step of the way. Tuesday, there was a conference call, a press conference at PETCO Park in downtown San Diego and a flight to New York aboard a private plane owned by Padres majority owner John Moores. On Wednesday, there was another press conference at the world famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, plus television and radio appearances too numerous to mention before the late-afternoon spot with Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theater. "Today has been a lot better," Gwynn said. "I'm glad yesterday is over. You should have seen me yesterday." Tuesday began with the call from Jack O'Connell, the secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers' Association of America and a reporter for MLB.com. Despite all indications that Gwynn and Ripken were shoo-ins for election, the hours before the call proved to be difficult for the eight-time National League batting champion, who played his entire 20-year career with the San Diego Padres. "I felt very fidgety," Gwynn said. "I couldn't sit still. I kept walking around." The Gywnns live in Rancho Bernardo, about 15 miles north of Qualcomm Stadium, the Padres' home in Mission Valley during the course of Gwynn's career, which ended at the conclusion of the 2001 season.
"For the last five years, I thought about what that call was going be like," Gwynn said. "I could not imagine the feeling that I was going to get. It was elation. I thought about my [late] father, my family, all the hard work I put into it. Don't get me wrong; I thought going in what I did was going to be worthy, but when you hear it, when those words finally come out, I kind of lost it."Gwynn took the call at home with his wife, daughter and son, Anthony Jr. -- a player for the Milwaukee Brewers -- at his side. There were camera crews to record the moment, tape recorders running. "It was bedlam," Alicia Gwynn said. "But it's all good now." Players handle that call in different ways. Ripken said he acted kind of "hokey and goofy" when the call from O'Connell finally came, telling him he received 98.53 percent of the vote, the highest percentage for a position player in history. Others in years past -- Ryne Sandberg and Bruce Sutter -- like Gwynn, who received 97.6 percent of the vote, broke down in tears. "The emotions kind of get the best of you," Gwynn said. "You've just been told you're a Hall of Famer. It hits you." Not only is Gwynn a Hall of Famer, but he's the first ever elected to boast a pure Padres pedigree. The franchise was incorporated in 1969 and there have been others inducted with a trace of San Diego in their blood -- Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry, Rollie Fingers, Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield, who was inducted in 2001 as the first player to ever have the interlocking "SD" engraved on his plaque. There's no doubt what insignia will be on Gwynn's cap nor of the inscription that will describe his career. "It'll be very bland," Gwynn said. "I was a very conservative player. To me, the best part is that I played for one team. When you hear my name, you're not going to think about what hat he's going to wear. Ultimately, you think about the Padres and you think about baseball."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.