Padres fans outnumbered but inspired

The Baltimore Sun

Scott Gulbransen has nothing against Cal Ripken Jr. In fact, he said the Orioles great represents much of what's wonderful about baseball.

But he flew from San Diego with his father, Paul, and 6-year-old son, Ryan, to celebrate another great player and good guy -- Tony Gwynn.

Ripken fans outnumbered Gwynn lovers by a 10-1 ratio yesterday, but the San Diego star's fans were no less passionate.

"He's Mr. Padre," Gulbransen said. "He's just the epitome of what you'd want a baseball star to be. Like Cal, he's always out in the community. He loves kids. And for me growing up, he was the guy, our first true star."

Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Rollie Fingers starred for San Diego. But the Gulbransens regard Gwynn as the first true Padre to enter. That's why, during Gwynn's last home game, they pledged to travel to Cooperstown.

Ryan was too young to watch Gwynn in person, but he since learned his sweet left-handed stroke from watching tape. All three Gulbransens sported brown and yellow Padres regalia from head to toe.

"You just don't have human beings like him anymore," Paul Gulbransen said.

Said Scott Gulbransen of Gwynn: "I guess Cal might overshadow him a little bit. But I think that once people see his speech, they'll realize how down-to-earth he is, and they'll love him like we do."

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