Tony Gwynn has died at the age of 54. In the sense of both baseball and San Diego, though, his legacy is that of an immortal.

It’s a word that only the game of baseball assigns to its certifiable legends, the ex-players to whom the designation “Hall of Famer” is still an understatement. Anthony Keith Gwynn, HOF ’07, beloved in San Diego and known from coast to coast as “Mr. Padre,” was decidedly one of them when he passed away after a years-long battle with cancer.

Having battled an especially vicious form of the disease with the same tenacity that he fouled off unhittable pitches -- usually before stroking opposite-field singles through the 5.5 hole between short and third -- Gwynn retired with eight National League batting titles. Also with baseball’s near-unanimous belief that “T” was the greatest pure hitter of the last half of the 20th Century.

Without compare, Gwynn was also the best ballplayer to ever play for the Padres’ major-league franchise. Before that, he was a two-sport athlete who came to San Diego State as an 18-year-old basketball player and never left town, returning to his alma mater upon retirement from the big leagues to coach the Aztecs baseball team at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

As much for his 3,141 career hits and final batting average of .338 – the highest of any player who’s retired since 1939 – Gwynn further endeared himself to San Diegans with his jovial nature, the inexplicable twang in his high-pitched voice and those quick bursts of child-like laughter.