Tony Gwynn underwent a 14-hour surgery yesterday to remove a malignant tumor from his cheek, with Tom Friend of ESPN.com reporting that the Hall of Famer had a facial nerve taken out and replaced with a nerve from his shoulder.
Gwynn’s wife, Alicia Gwynn, told Friend that the surgery lasted until 1:00 a.m. and was deemed a success, as the cancerous tumor was completely removed.
Gwynn, who attributes the growth to his prior use of smokeless tobacco, underwent a somewhat similar procedure in 2010 that left him unable to smile for several months. Gwynn’s wife is optimistic that his recovery will be much easier this time around, noting that “his face looks good” already.
Friend writes that had the “complex” surgery not gone well yesterday Gwynn’s “face could’ve been partially paralyzed or slightly disfigured.” For now there’s hope that Gwynn will be feeling good enough to resume coaching at San Diego State next month, hopefully while displaying the same smile that baseball fans came to love during his 20-year career.