Major League Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, considered one of the best hitters in baseball history, died from salivary gland cancer, Major League Baseball announced Monday. He was 54.
Gwynn finished his career with a .338 batting average and won eight National League batting titles while a member of the San Diego Padres. He was serving as a baseball coach at San Diego State University but had been on medical leave since March trying to recover from cancer treatment, ESPN said
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His career batting average over 20 seasons with the Padres was highest since Ted Williams retired with a .344 batting average in 1960. Gwynn collected 3,141 hits is two decades in the majors and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 with the Baltimore Orioles star Cal Ripken.
Doctors discovered Gwynn's cancer in 2009 when a malignant tumor was removed from his right cheek, the MLB said
. Cancer would strike Gwynn again in the latter part of 2012 and he started radiation treatment to shrink the tumor.
"The whole experience was traumatic because I thought I had it beat, and dang, it came back," Gwynn said during a visit to the Hall of Fame in 2012, according to Major League Baseball.
Gwynn was an All-American at San Diego State before signing to play for the Padres. He took over as the school's head coach officially in July 2002. He had served as a volunteer assistant coach with the Aztecs during the 2002 campaign under retiring coach Jim Dietz.
While with the Padres, he hit .350 or better from 1993 to 1997, becoming only the fourth player in Major League history to top the .350 mark in five consecutive seasons. His career-high average came in 1994 when he hit .394, the highest average in the National League since 1930.
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