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GWYNN set to announce he'll retire at season's end

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Like Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn will be going, going, gone at season's end.

Gwynn, arguably the best pure hitter of his generation, is expected to announce Thursday that he will retire at the end of this season, his 20th with the San Diego Padres.

A baseball source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday evening that he understood that an announcement was to be made Thursday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.

Wednesday night in Denver, teammate Rickey Henderson confirmed the news as the Padres finished a six-game trip.

``He told me he was going to announce it, I think when we get back home,'' Henderson said after the Padres' 10-9 loss to the Colorado Rockies.

``I don't know if he has told the whole team. But we talked, and he said he was going to announce his retirement,'' Henderson said.

Gwynn, who's been on the disabled list since May 10, was not available for comment after the game.

Earlier Wednesday, USA Today's Baseball Weekly reported on that Gwynn will retire at season's end.

``Nobody wants to believe it now,'' Gwynn told Baseball Weekly from his hotel room in Denver, ``but I knew this would be my last year before the year started. It was predetermined. No matter what I did this year, I knew it would be my last.

``I'll have a press conference to get it off my chest, and then I'll be at peace.''

Gwynn, 41, has struggled to get back into the Padres' outfield because of a strained right hamstring that's sidelined him for most of the season.

Gwynn ran in the outfield before Wednesday night's game.

``Tony is getting closer,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ``When he does come back he will pinch hit, but not play in the field.''

After the game, Bochy said he did not know Gwynn's plans.

``I don't know what he's going to decide to do. I don't. But he's been a real pleasure. I hope to get him back at some point this year,'' Bochy said.

``He's done a lot for San Diego. It's been frustrating for him with his injuries, and hopefully we'll get him back out here,'' he said.

Gwynn, an eight-time NL batting champion who is 16th in baseball history with 3,124 hits, has strongly hinted for a month that this would be his final season.

On May 29, he told reporters he would like to be the baseball coach at his alma mater, San Diego State, when the job opens in June 2002. Although he wouldn't say it publicly at the time, that would rule out him playing next season if he got the job.

When Ripken announced on June 19 that he'll retire at the end of the season, Gwynn said he wasn't surprised.

``I'm sure he thought about it. I've thought about it for two or three years,'' Gwynn said at the time. ``I figured it was going to happen for Ripken. First, Wally (Joyner) a few days ago. There are going to be a few more by the end of the year. But this is not the time to talk about it. There will come a time, but it's not right now.''

Ripken and Gwynn are scheduled to play their final games on Sept. 30, Ripken at Yankee Stadium and Gwynn at San Francisco's Pac Bell Park.

Gwynn turned 41 on May 9, the day he hurt his hamstring for the second time. He was placed on the disabled list the next day, for the second time this season.

Gwynn has played in just 16 games this season, getting 16 hits in 48 at-bats for a .333 average. He hurt his hamstring for the first time on April 20 in Los Angeles, trying to stretch a hit into a double.

Gwynn has been plagued by leg injuries the last several years. He underwent a sixth surgery on his left knee last season and was limited to a career-low 36 games.

Unsure about his knee, the Padres put him through the wringer in negotiations last winter after Gwynn filed for free agency for the first time. They finally agreed to an incentive-laden contract in which half of his $2 million salary is deferred.

Gwynn played both baseball and basketball at San Diego State, and was drafted by both the Padres and the then-San Diego Clippers on the same day in 1981.

Last season, Gwynn hit above .300 for the 18th straight season, breaking Honus Wagner's NL record. With his eighth and final batting title in 1997, Gwynn tied Wagner for the most in the NL.

Gwynn has a lifetime .338 average. Hall of Famer Ted Williams, a San Diego native, hit .344, the only player in baseball with a higher batting average than Gwynn since World War II.

Gwynn's best year was 1994, when he was batting .394 when the players' strike began. It was the highest in the majors since Williams batted .406 in 1941.

Gwynn got his 3,000th hit on Aug. 6, 1999, at Montreal.

He reached the World Series twice, but the Padres lost to the Detroit Tigers in 1984 and the New York Yankees in 1998.
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