(RNN) – Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died Monday after a bout with cancer. He was 54.
Gwynn was born May 9, 1960, and won eight batting titles with the San Diego Padres, which is tied for the second most in Major League Baseball history and the most in National League history. He was diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland in 2010 and underwent two surgeries, including one to remove a malignant tumor inside his mouth.
The official Twitter account for the Padres tweeted, "We are terribly sad to say goodbye to our teammate, our friend and a legend, Tony Gwynn. Rest in peace, Mr. Padre."
One of the game's all-time great hitters, Gwynn was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the third round of the 1981 MLB amateur draft out of San Diego State University and played all 20 years of his career with the Padres, finishing with 3,141 hits and a lifetime average of .338. His lifetime average is the highest since Ted Williams retired in 1960 with a .344 average.
He made the All-Star team 15 times, was inducted into Cooperstown on his first ballot in 2007 and the Padres retired his jersey number in 2004. He returned to San Diego State as the team's manager in 2003. He took a leave of absence in March due to cancer treatments, but had signed a contract extension with the university last week.
Gwynn was not only considered the best hitter of his generation and one of the best ever, but was also revered for his friendly demeanor. The sentiment was echoed by former ESPN anchor Rich Eisen, who tweeted, "In my years covering MLB, easily the most approachable, greatest person I met was Tony Gwynn."
His son, Tony Gwynn Jr., plays for the Philadelphia Phillies and discussed his father's condition in an interview with CSN Philly that was published Sunday for Father's Day. In the interview, his son expressed optimism that his father's condition was improving.
"When I left for spring training he was in a good spot, and now he's not in that same spot, so from that standpoint I guess it has worsened," his son said. "But in the big scheme of things, which is getting healthy so he can do the things he wants to do, I see light at the end of the tunnel. I can't say that he does, but then again he's the one going through this, and it's tough on him."
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