Fellow baseball fans: we’ve lost one of our finest, as MLB enthusiasts and members of this community.
Tuesday afternoon, Major League Baseball, Colorado, western Florida, and the world lost one of its most genuine, and lovable members. Phillies and Blue Jays legendary pitcher Roy “Doc” Halladay, aged 40, was announced just after 4pm ET as the lone fatality in a Gulf of Mexico plane crash.
Most people know, and will talk about, what made Doc the effective, dominant, frustrating figure he was on the mound. You’ll read about the perfect game, the no-hitter in the postseason – all of the athletic accomplishments that will likely result in his face being immortalized in the halls of Cooperstown. Roy Halladay was a husband and a father of two teenage children. His most important award was the Roberto Clemente Award, for which he was nominated three times as a Blue Jay. During his time with Toronto, Halladay made a point of donating $100,000 each year to the “Jays Care Foundation”, which provides youth afflicted with cognitive and/or physical abilities the opportunity to have baseball experiences of their own. He made a point of bringing families from The Hospital for Sick Children into his box for Blue Jays games, which he had remodeled to be more hospitable and comfortable for children. Six years ago, in San Francisco, Halladay helped arrange a fishing trip for Skeet Reese, a Bay Area fisherman who was also working to get a youth community arts center built in the area. In addition to the trip, Halladay personally donated to Reese’s efforts. Following retirement at age 36 to be closer to his family, Halladay enrolled in sports psychology courses at the University of South Florida, and was rumored to be considering coaching in his near future.
Of course, as you well know, Doc had a first-class resume as a pitcher as well. His 16-year career came at a time in which bullpens were more leaned-upon than ever in baseball. Roy Halladay, as he often did, proved the exception to the rule. He pitched 220 or more innings in eight of his 16 seasons. From 2002-2011, he threw the second-most innings of any pitcher in baseball (2194.2), had the second-lowest homer-per-nine-innings rate in the game (0.69), posted the lowest fielding-independent ERA (3.12), was one of only four pitchers to strand at least 75% of the runners he allowed, and, perhaps most notably, pitched 63 complete games, almost twice as many as anyone else in MLB. Halladay was a workhorse, a true ace in every sense of the term. Time and again, he put his teammates on his back and led them to victory, and all he ever asked for in return was the opportunity to do it again five days later.
I remember watching a Mets-Phillies game with my late (Mets fan) grandfather as a nine-year-old back in 2010. The Phillies were winning 10-0. Halladay wasn’t throwing a perfect game in this instance, though he may as well have been. Yet, the score was irrelevant to the man on the hill. There were no antics, there was no showboating, there was hardly a flicker of emotion in Doc’s teflon demeanor. After his known ritual of remaining focused enough to not speak to any outsiders on start days until he was out of the game, he once again went about his craft the only way he knew how, with dignity, with class, with his one-of-a-kind blend of purely elite talent and professionalism. Pa turned to me in his black recliner, pointed at the TV across the family room from us and said, “I like him.”
In short, Harry Leroy Halladay III was a family man first, a community servant second, and a baseball icon third. He was legendary in each. He was also a passionate aviator, which, in an ending perhaps as perfect as it is painful, has ensured his soul will eternally fly high, while his impact on American baseball, and on the communities he enriched so deeply, will live on in memory of a true hero gone far too soon. He had many bright, loving, vibrant years ahead of him, and I speak on behalf of countless individuals who’ve seen this news in offering prayer for the family who remains here today.
In this world, there’s a sometimes-concerning perception of individuals in baseball or other sports as being “pro athletes with good character”. Roy Halladay was the rare, and invaluable, pro character with good athletic ability. He was, as Jeff Passan tweeted, “who everyone wanted to be”.
For all of this, thank you, Mr. Halladay. It was a privilege to watch you compete at the highest level, with utmost dignity, in the greatest sport to grace this country.
Until we meet again, Doc.