Winning Through The Pain
Gwynn kept up his award-winning playing after the 1984 season—his batting average never dropped below.300 between 1984 and 1994, and he continued to win batting titles—along with the love of the San Diego fans. He also won his first Gold Glove Award for defense in 1986. He had an exceptional .370 batting average in 1987, with a Padres record of 218 hits.
Gwynn enjoyed eating and developed a bit of a rotund physique, but the weight gain did not slow him up on the diamond. What did continue to plague him, however, were injuries. In 1988 he had surgery on his left hand and was injured in a fall. After getting off to a slow start, however, he finished the season batting .313 and won another National League batting title. In the 1989 season he injured his Achilles tendon and had another wrist injury but still managed to take home the Gold Glove and be named All-Star. That year was difficult in another way as well: in spite of his high salary, he had to file for bankruptcy because of what he called improper practices by his accountant. In 1990 he fractured an index finger, and in 1991 he had a conflict with some team members, who hung a figure of him in the dugout with arms and legs removed. He also had the first of four knee surgeries that would cause him to miss games through 1994. In spite of the lost time, he continued to play brilliantly and achieved his 2,000th career hit in 1993.
The year 1994 was perhaps the most painful of all for Gwynn, however. He had lost his father in the winter of 1993, and it was difficult for him to go on without the man on whom he had so depended for advice and support. Another knee surgery and the loss of a former teammate, Eric Show, to a drug overdose, brought Gwynn down even further. He stopped training and canceled public appearances. He soon pulled himself together, though, and concentrated on his game. In August, as Gwynn was hitting .475, the Players Association went on strike and called a halt to the games.
Back on the playing field in 1995, Gwynn had another great year, winning the league batting title and his eleventh All-Star Game designation, as well as being named Padres MVP for the sixth time. He played most of the 1996 season with a torn Achilles tendon but still batted .353, logged his 2,500th hit, and made the play that put the Padres into the playoffs. After the season ended, he had surgery to repair the torn tendon.
Fully recovered in 1997, at age 37, with a little gray in his beard, Gwynn had probably his best season with the Padres. He hit his personal best in home runs, seventeen, had 119 RBIs, batted .372, and won his eighth league batting title. The Padres renewed his contract through 2000.
In 1998 the Padres went to the World Series for the second time in Gwynn's career. They lost to the New York Yankees even though Gwynn had eight hits and a home run in sixteen times at bat. On August 6, 1999, he collected his 3,000th hit. Only Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoie achieved the milestone in fewer games than Gwynn had.