As reported Tuesday morning, former San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers has died of cancer at just 56 years old.
Towers, who worked for the Padres for 18 years as a scout and front office executive, has been battling thyroid cancer since December of 2016. However the news of his condition had been kept private until Game 4 of the 2017 World Series when Houston Astros manager (and another former Padres front office executive) AJ Hinch held up a card with his name during a mid-game Stand Up to Cancer spot.
News of his passing this morning first started making the rounds on social media just before 8:00 am PT, with a tweet by Bob Nightengale.
Kevin Towers, one of the greatest people this game has ever known, and the ultimate fighter, has passed away from cancer. Unbelievable. He will be greatly missed. Loved that man— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 30, 2018
Though Towers is mainly known in San Diego for his time as general manager for the Padres, his connection to San Diego started much earlier. He played college baseball at MiraCosta Community College in North County San Diego (Oceanside) before transferring to Brigham Young University. In 1982, his junior year, he was drafted by the Padres as a pitcher. He spent seven years pitching in the Padres farm system, but never made it to the Majors.
After spending two years as a pitching coach for the Single-A Spokane Indians, he returned to the Padres organization as a scout from 1989-1991, and then served as a scout for the Pirates from 1991-1993. He became the Padres' scouting director in 1993 and then was promoted to General manager in 1995.
The Padres had some of their most successful seasons with KT at the helm. During his tenure as GM, the Padres won four division championships and appeared in a World Series (1998). He was well-liked around the league and earned the nickname of Gunslinger for his fearless and aggressive trade approach. But in 2009, after two straight losing seasons, the Padres let him go.
I remember being really sad when he was fired. The early to late 2000s were when I really started following the Padres closely, and 2009 specifically was when I first started reading and commenting on Gaslamp Ball. I've always remembered this fanpost/poem by Mad_Villain, who summed up many of our feelings about KT as he parted ways with the Padres. These words still hold up, and they especially resonate today as we mourn the loss of a great man.
I miss you Gunslinger, you were mine since I was 10.
I miss you Gunslinger, you built a cheap, yet solid ’pen.
I didn’t always feel loved, but I knew the love was there.
You were sometimes over budget, but the spending was always fair.
You once lived around the corner, in the town of PB,
I would wave and yell while I jogged by, but you just stared at me.
I saw you wash your bulldog once, I wanted to ask if it was Hoff’s,
I saw you making out with a blonde once, I wanted to ask if it was Hoff’s.
You’ve brought me mediocrity, you’ve brought me many tears,
you’ve brought me Brian Giles, for a few too many years.
Thanks for all you’ve given us, I’ll remember all the wins,
Thanks for all you’ve given us, all three Gwynns.
I’ll always remember you Gunslinger, your dark, sunken eyes,
I’ll remember 13 years of question marks, and 1 year of highs.
KT will be missed greatly throughout the Padres community, and the baseball world as a whole.
Statement from Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler and General Partner Peter Seidler on the passing of Kevin Towers: pic.twitter.com/NsKTnHyE47— San Diego Padres (@Padres) January 30, 2018
I first met KT in Yuma. Spring training 1985 at Johnny’s. He was a Padre farm hand and I was w/ SF. Within 10 minutes of meeting him, we were having a dance off on the the dance floor! KT was doing the “sprinkler” and I was doing the “shopping cart”. Cocktails were involved.— Mark Grant (@Mudcat55) January 30, 2018
A week ago, Trevor Hoffman choked up at his Hall election press conference, thinking about the small bit of joy that news might bring Kevin Towers. Today is a very sad day for the Padres organization.— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) January 30, 2018
One of the best media guide covers ever. RIP to the ultimate gunslinger, Kevin Towers. pic.twitter.com/Ftx7AtGLDw— Bernie Wilson (@berniewilson) January 30, 2018
My favorite Kevin Towers experience: during a particularly ugly Padres/Dodgers game at Jack Murphy when we were GM of the participants, he called between innings & said "wow, what were we thinking, Danny?" That was KT. Unbridled. You suck, cancer.— Dan Evans (@DanEvans108) January 30, 2018
Kevin was so superstitious, he would kick me and Palet out of an empty booth where we'd be watching the game all the time. 2 days later, he'd feel bad and have us in his booth eating fish tacos with Fred Jr and Theo. He was such a great guy. This sucks— Jeff Dotseth (@jeffdotseth) January 30, 2018
For awhile my buddy and competitor Kevin Towers fought to stay alive battling a very rare form of illness - anaplastic thyroid cancer. Today he fights no more. At 56, there were many more games to see, players to scout, decisions to make and baseball discussions to be had over a glass of wine, or two. Most poignantly and far more importantly there needed to be more time, more life, with his true love Kelley. In our time, we laughed. We competed. We argued. We fought without words, without physical actions. We hugged. We respected each other, the game of baseball and the people in it. We never worked for the same organization but were locked up tight in the NL West for more than 20 seasons trying to beat each other’s teams. The candles of life burn on, day by day, breathe by breathe. Me and many in baseball and in life find one fewer candle burning today. Peace my friend. #RIP #KT #GM #baseball #scout #leader #husband #son #friend #competitor