It's hard to believe that there was a time in Padres history when Tony Gwynn was accused of being selfish by his teammates, he only hit .309 and someone hung a doll of him in effigy.
Twenty years ago today on May 24, 1990 in New York a feud between Jack Clark and Tony Gwynn escalated. It happened in a team meeting where Clark threw a can of soda against the wall and screamed "The reason why the Padres suck is because Gwynn is a selfish mother!"
Later in the season a mutilated Tony Gwynn doll with broken arms and legs was hung from the neck in the dugout by a chain noose. The person guilty of the act is still a mystery.
"There's nothing wrong with having a good laugh, but when I saw it, I didn't laugh," says Gwynn.
'Right from the beginning, I thought it was somebody being funny,'' said Gwynn, who kept a photograph of the mutilated doll in his locker. ''It didn't cross my mind that it was racial. ''
''It wasn't funny, but he must have been making a joke,'' Gwynn added, referring to the possibility of a teammate's committing the prank. ''I tried to leave it alone.''
Wikipedia among other sources, will tell you it was Jack Clark who hung the doll. Jack Clark denies it.
"I wish I knew who did that because I'd kick their butt, too," said Clark, who is white. "That was disgusting." But race, he insisted, was never his or any other Padre's motive and he pointed to black players like Garry Templeton who aligned against Gwynn.
The Padres President at the time Dick Freeman told Gwynn that a Padres groundskeeper admitted to hanging the doll, but Gwynn thinks the Padres lied in an attempt to cover for a player.
When the Padres announced their findings, they said the groundskeeper would remain anonymous, but that he would personally apologize to Gwynn. It has been five months, and Gwynn has yet to receive an apology. Although Gwynn refuses to indict any teammates, he believes the Padres lied in a cover-up.
"I don't believe it (the Padres' story), not for a minute," Gwynn said. "I never believed it in the first place. The owners, they covered it up, and they made things worse."
Gwynn broke his finger late in the season and didn't return to the club. Jack Clark signed with Boston, but continued to criticize Gwynn from afar.
I would have liked to have been back just for the fact to get in his face some more.
Gwynn had the last word, entering the Hall of Fame in 2007 and being universally known as the greatest Padre that ever lived.