Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, feeling good in his cancer battle, hit hard by news of Gary Carter diagnosis
Tony Gwynn heard the news Tuesday, and like most everyone else who has ever known Gary Carter, he took it hard:
Carter’s malignant brain tumors are inoperable.
"It’s sad, isn’t it?," said Gwynn, the Padres’ Hall of Famer who has been battling cancer in a salivary gland. "It’s very sad. That could have been me. Sometimes that’s just how it works. You want him to be comfortable the rest of his life and not have to really worry about things."
And then quickly, Gwynn broke into a story of the ex-catcher.
"Every time you came up to hit, he always had something to tell you, something to say," Gwynn said. "'Gwynny, everything we throw at you, you seem to be hitting, so I’m just going to tell you what’s coming.' I remember Doug Harvey was behind the plate that day, and I was like, 'Doug, he can’t do that to me.' And Doug was, 'Nah, there’s nothing in the rule book that says he can’t tell you what’s coming.'
"It was like the damnest thing. He’d tell you what was coming, and sure enough, that’s what’s coming. But as a hitter you don’t believe it."
"When you’re not an everyday guy it’s tougher, but he handles it really good," Gwynn said. "He keeps working. And he’s a workaholic. I knew when I came out here today there was a good chance he’d be in the cage, and that’s where he was.
"Ultimately it just gets down to mentally being strong enough to trust whatever it is you do."
Gwynn returned as the head baseball coach at San Diego State this season after undergoing surgery for his cancer in August, followed by radiation and chemotherapy.
"Five, six months after treatment, I’m doing good," he said. "All the tests I’ve taken have come back positively. I’ve got another round of tests I have to take in the next couple of weeks. I plan on being around here for awhile."
Gwynn suspects his habit of using chewing tobacco is responsible for his cancer. He said even now, he still has to fight the cravings to dip.
"It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with through all of this," he said. "The cravings are still there. You just have to fight it."
The fight now looks difficult for Carter, a fellow Hall of Famer who used to sit at a special table with Gwynn every year during the annual celebration ceremonies.
"We all understood we weren’t good enough to sit at the 500 home-run table," Gwynn said. "We all had our little niche. Gary was the Kid. He played with an enthusiasm and love for the game, that I think a lot of us admired. It’s sad, it’s really said to hear this."
-- Steve Dilbeck
Top photo: Tony Gwynn in 2006. Credit: Chris Park / Associated Press. Bottom photo: Former Mets and Expos catcher Gary Carter poses next to a bronze bust of his likeness at Shea Stadium in 2001. Credit: Ray Stubblebine / Reuters