On this day in 1996, the Padres signed pinch-hitter and reserve outfielder Chris Gwynn. The lesser-known Gwynn not only was teamed up with his brother Tony, but also returned to the city where he played his college ball before being selected with the Dodgers' first pick in the 1985 draft - like Tony, he attended San Diego State University. Chris spent his first five major league seasons with Los Angeles before being traded to Kansas City, where he spent two years, including his only season as a semi-regular. Prior to the 1994 season he returned to the Dodgers as a free agent and stayed with them through the 1995 season. That brings us up to the date this post is about: January 13, 1996.
I was about to write about how his 1996 season played out, but then I remembered that I already did last April when I wrote about the six sets of brothers who have been Padres teammates.
In what turned out to be the last of his ten major league seasons, Chris hit just .178/ .260/ .256 in exactly 100 plate appearances, but all that was forgotten on the last day of the season. With the Padres and Dodgers tied for the division lead at 90-71 and facing each other, this was as must-win as games get. The game went into extras without a run crossing the plate. Chris Gwynn was summoned by Bruce Bochy to hit in the pitcher's spot in the top of the eleventh inning with Steve Finley on third base and Ken Caminiti on first, with no outs. Gwynn ripped Chan Ho Park's third pitch to right center for a double that plated both runners. Those were the only runs of the game, and San Diego returned to the postseason for the first time in a dozen years. Chris singled both times he went to the plate in the NLDS loss to the Cardinals, tying a nice little ribbon on his career.
After his playing days Chris became a scout for the Padres, eventually working his way up to the position of Director of Player Personnel before getting an even sweeter gig with the Mariners in 2012. He stepped down last fall, and was being considered for the Angels' general manager vacancy which was eventually filled by Billy Eppler. He's well regarded around the game, so one can only assume gainful employment isn't far around the corner.