Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published June 16, 2014 at 8:19 PM | Page modified June 16, 2014 at 9:15 PM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Mariners reliever remembers his encounter with the late Tony Gwynn

Joe Beimel was a rookie when he served up Gwynn’s last home run


Seattle Times staff reporter

advertising

Mariners reliever Joe Beimel, then a 24-year-old rookie with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was preparing to make the 12th start of his major-league career on Aug. 11, 2001 when the scouting-report discussion turned to Tony Gwynn.

“There isn’t really a way to pitch him,” Beimel recalled being told. “He can hit everything, so maybe you should just try throwing it right down the middle.”

Reluctantly, Beimel did just that on his first pitch. Predictably, Gwynn gashed it for a double.

In the next at-bat, Beimel was able to get Gwynn out with a changeup — a pitch he said he’s thrown “maybe” five times to a fellow left-hander in his 13-year career. Then, in their third and final matchup, Beimel hung a slider over the plate that Gwynn belted over the fence at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.

It was the final home run of Gwynn’s Hall of Fame career with the San Diego Padres.

Monday morning, after a long fight with cancer, Gwynn died at the age of 54.

“I actually took pride in the fact that I gave up the final home run,” Beimel said Monday afternoon as the Mariners prepared to open a series against the Padres at Safeco Field. “I kept watching the box scores the rest of the (2001) season to see if he’d have another one, and he didn’t. So I was like, ‘Yes!’ ”

Padres manager Bud Black was a teammate of Gwynn’s at San Diego State in the late 1970s. Gwynn, in Black’s words, became “an icon” in his 20 seasons with the Padres.

Gwynn won a record eight National League batting titles and his .338 career batting average is highest of any player who began play after 1939.

“He truly loved baseball, as much as anybody I’ve ever known,” Black said.

Gwynn’s younger brother, Chris, is the Mariners’ director of minor-league operations.

“I haven’t had a chance to talk to Chris yet,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I’m going to give him some time because I’m sure he’s grieving right now, but there’s a lot of memories I’d like to share with him. …

“What a tremendous loss for baseball. My heart goes out to his family.”

More than a decade after facing Gwynn in Pittsburgh, Beimel was at a clinic with Gwynn in Torrance, Calif., in 2012. A friend of Beimel’s asked the Hall of Famer if he remembered his last home run.

“He recalled everything in detail,” Beimel said. “Pretty awesome.”

Smoak to start his rehab

Justin Smoak is expected to begin a rehab assignment in Class AAA Tacoma on Wednesday.

Corey Hart and Michael Saunders could join him there by the end of the week.

After doing some running drills under the watchful eye of trainer Rick Griffin on Monday afternoon, Smoak said it was “as close to 100 percent” speed as he has run since going on the disabled list last week with a sore left quad.

“I feel pretty good,” Smoak said.

Smoak said the goal is for him to come off the DL when he’s eligible June 26.

McClendon said Smoak is tentatively scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Tacoma on Wednesday. Hart and Saunders, who also are on the disabled list, could begin their rehab assignment with Tacoma late in the week.

Adam Jude: 206-464-2364

or ajude@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter: @a_jude



Free 4-week trial, then $99 a year for unlimited seattletimes.com access. Try it now!

Also in Sports

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Career Center Blog

Career Center Blog

Looking for joy on the job


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►