Editor’s Note: San Diego and the greater sports world continues to mourn Tony Gwynn. The hometown hero died Monday at age 54 after a battle with salivary gland cancer.
The man who became known as Mr. Padre clearly had a lasting impact on the city – you can read a roundup of some of the biggest reasons he meant so much to us. We reached out to Ernie Anderson, photographer for San Diego State University’s athletics department, who described some of his favorite shots of Gwynn during his time as an Aztec and beyond.
Gwynn, pictured here in 1978, was a first team NCAA All-American as a baseball player, hitting over .400 in each of his final two seasons at San Diego State.
When people think of Gwynn, most associate him with baseball and his time with the Padres where he was the eight-time MLB batting champion. But those of us who were lucky enough to see play him play basketball know he could have had a professional career in the NBA, too. He still is the all-time Aztec leader in assists and could score as well. He was an All-Conference player and was selected by the Clippers in the NBA draft.
This is Gwynn’s mug shot for the 1980 San Diego State press guide. That year he hit .423 and was named an All-American by Baseball News.
After Gwynn’s baseball career at San Diego State, it was no surprise to see him drafted by the Padres in the third round of the MLB draft. He quickly became one of the league’s best players and eventually one of the greatest hitters to ever live, with eight batting titles, 15 All-Star seasons and more than 3,000 career hits.
For the 1980 San Diego State Basketball press guide, head coach Smokey Gaines and sports information director John Rosenthal decided to feature the players in coat and ties around the city. The players got to choose the locations for their photos and Gwynn chose Spanish Landing with Harbor Island in the background. Perfect weather, late day sun, San Diego and the water – a great combination to feature such a gifted athlete.
In 1988, San Diego State retired Gwynn’s number. Long-time head baseball coach Jim Dietz presented the jersey to him. In his time at San Diego State, Gwynn wore multiple jersey numbers, but No. 28 was the number they settled on retiring.
Immediately following his retirement from the Padres in 2001, Gwynn became SDSU’s next head baseball coach. Gwynn went on to win four Mountain West Conference Championships and was named the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year in 2004. I can say from personal experience that Gwynn was a pleasure to work with. He was always willing to let me hang out in the dugout to take photos during the games, and autographed photos that were auctioned off at events to raise funds for the Aztecs.
On March 11, 2004, the Aztecs played the first game in newly constructed Petco Park. Gwynn held court with the San Diego press before the game with an NCAA record baseball crowd in the background. More than 40,000 people showed up to watch the Aztecs beat the University of Houston, 4-0. To make the event even more memorable, Gwynn’s daughter Anisha sang the national anthem, and former Padres owner John Moores and his wife Becky presented a check to the Aztec baseball program for $1 million.
Ernie Anderson volunteers as a photographer for San Diego State’s various athletic teams, having retired in 2008 from a career in city management.