Giants pay tribute to Padres legend Gwynn

Giants pay tribute to Padres legend Gwynn

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mike Krukow distinctly recalled his first encounter with Tony Gwynn. It happened to be Gwynn's Major League debut.

Gwynn began his Hall of Fame career on July 19, 1982, with a first-inning sacrifice fly off Krukow, who had heard glowing reports about this hotshot rookie.

"After his first at-bat I came in and said, 'This guy's for real,'" said Krukow, who then pitched for Philadelphia.

Krukow spoke Monday, shortly before the Giants held a pregame ceremony to honor Gwynn, the Hall of Fame right fielder who died last Monday. Opening a three-game series against Gwynn's former team, the San Diego Padres, the Giants emblazoned his jersey No. 19 on one of the cushioned barriers between a pair of right-field archways. It will remain there throughout the series.

During the ceremony, Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who managed and played with Gwynn in San Diego, presented a base that was used in Gwynn's final game at AT&T Park on Sept. 30, 2001, to Padres manager Bud Black.

"Tony, I want to thank you for the memories. We're going to miss you," Bochy said during a brief address.

The Giants and Padres lined up on the third- and first-base lines, respectively, as a moment of silence was observed. A video montage featuring highlights of Gwynn's career and tributes to him played on the scoreboard screen.

Krukow and Gwynn became fast friends, but they weren't always that close. Krukow, who said that he didn't socialize much with opposing ballplayers, grudgingly introduced himself to Gwynn when they were teammates on the 1986 National League All-Star squad. As Krukow remembered it, Gwynn responded with a limp handshake.

Krukow forgot about the incident until about 20 years later, when they were both broadcasters. Gwynn, who provided commentary on Padres telecasts, approached Krukow and apologized. As Krukow related, Gwynn said, "I didn't want to get close to my opponents. That was hard for me. I hope you understand."

That broke the ice.

"He was a rare, rare guy," Krukow said, "and a very, very humble man who had deep passion for the game."

Krukow admired Gwynn for becoming San Diego State University's head baseball coach.

"In the end, it wasn't so much that he was a hitter or player or athlete. He was a teacher," Krukow said. "That's why I think he coached, which is a difficult, time-consuming job. But he loved it, because he liked teaching. And he had the patience of a teacher. In the end, I really feel fortunate that I had a relationshp with him that wasn't all a competitive-type relationship. It was beyond that. What I found out about the guy was that he was a good man."

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. Ryan Hood is an associate reporter for Follow him on Twitter @ryanhood19. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.