At first glance, this is a humble game-used Rawlings Official National League (Coleman) baseball, yet upon closer examination it reveals a marvelous moment in America's pastime. Neat, printed black ballpoint lettering on one panel tells the whole story: #3000 8-6-99 VS MTL”. While to many that is a mysterious cryptic code, all baseball fans know that these numbers and letters mean this is a very special baseball. August 6, 1999 is the date Tony Gwynn hit a first inning single to become the first National Leaguer in 20 years to join the 3000 Career Hit Club--and this is the ball he did it with.
Ever since he came up with San Diego in 1982, Tony Gwynn set the pace to be one of the youngest players to reach the vaunted 3,000 career hit mark. Every season Gwynn’s average was in the high .300’s as he raced toward the magic number. Along the way Gwynn won eight batting championships and led the Padres to two National League pennants. The pinnacle moment came on that August night at Olympic Stadium in his very first at-bat in the top of the 1st inning off Montreal’s Dan Smith when he grounded a single past the mound and into center field. Play was paused as Gwynn’s teammates rushed the field in exaltation. Umpires hugged the Padres' star and Gwynn’s mom and wife Alicia made their way onto the field to congratulate him--remember no NL player had reached 3,000 for two decades and this was only the 22nd time in history it had been done.
The ball shows appropriate game use with the toning and scuff marks expected of a well-hit ball. After the historic hit, the ball was retired and given to Gwynn and notated with the details of the game. It is actually notated twice, once as mentioned in neat black ballpoint under the CUSHIONED CORK CENTER RO-N label on one panel. The other more inconspicuous location is next to the Rawling logo in black felt pen which has bled slightly. Being the very ball hit to record Gwynn’s 3,000th career hit, this is a very unique part of baseball history and worthy of a museum. Perhaps a generous collector will hand it over to Cooperstown where it rightfully belongs.
Includes LOA from Alicia Gwynn.