The news of Roy Halladay’s death Tuesday afternoon in a plane crash was shocking. How could a man who was only 40 and only one year away from what was most likely going to be an easy election to the Baseball Hall of Fame be taken from us in the blink of an eye?
We didn’t see this one coming. We never see the shocking deaths coming.
Over the last year, baseball has suffered so much with the tragic deaths of Jose Fernandez, Yordando Ventura, and Andy Marte. There is no playbook for how to deal with grief. The baseball community is no exception. We should take an opportunity to appreciate how Roy impacted the game of baseball in what is likely to be a Hall of Fame career, even if it’s tough to imagine that Roy won’t be on that stage in person at Cooperstown.
Over his 16 years in baseball, Roy Halladay inspired us to never back down from a challenge. Halladay started his big league career with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998 and the hard throwing right-hander was a must-see prospect. Roy, however, had a problem: his fastball didn’t move. He struggled to get batters out and he finished his 2000 season with an ERA over 10. Halladay was sent all the way down to single A to rebuild his mechanics to create more movement. They changed his delivery and when he returned to the majors in 2001, he was throwing almost side-arm. The change clearly worked.
In 2002, Halladay finished with a 19-7 record, 2.93 ERA, and 168 strikeouts in 239.1 innings. He was named to his first All-Star Team. He didn’t just become a great pitcher; he showed us that you should never give up on your dreams. If he did not spend the months on the back fields at Class A Dunedin, we would never have been treated to the masterful pitch and the memorable moments.
Roy Halladay pitched for the Blue Jays from 1998 until 2009, becoming a six time All-Star and winning a Cy Young Award. His dominance, however, never lead him to the post season and in 2010 he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. His first year in Phillies Pinstripes was one of the greatest things I have ever witnessed as a baseball fan. He lead the NL in wins, won the Cy Young, and threw a perfect game:
To top it all off, in his first playoff game he threw a no-hitter against the Reds.
Doc and Don Larsen are the only players ever to throw a no-no in the post season.
Roy would go on to dominate during his career with the Phillies, until his arm gave out. In 2013, Halladay had a bone spur removed from his shoulder and was trying to work through fraying in his rotator cuff. His career was over. He finished with 203 wins, a 3.38 ERA, and 2,117 strikeouts. I have always wondered what his career would have looked like if his arm had never given out.
Roy retired with the Blue Jays and lived a life of quiet obscurity. He got his pilots’ license, began coaching youth baseball, and spent time with his family. While Roy Halladay should be remembered for his soon-to-be Hall of Fame Career, I believe he should be remembered for the person he was. He had a suite at the Rogers Center where he invited kids from the Hospital for Sick Children out to the ballpark called “Doc’s Box,” which was entirely kid friendly. He donated $100,000 every year he was a Blue Jay to the Jays Care Foundation. He won my favorite award, the Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable work throughout his life.
Doc had an immense impact on me. The height of his career was when I was in high school, and I always looked up to him as a young pitcher. He showed us that control and movement could always make up for lack of velocity. He showed us how to battle adversity and stand back up after being knocked down. His death was a tragic accident, but he died doing what he loved. That is the best thing you can do in life. Live without regrets. We at Standing Room Only have Roy’s family, the Phillies, and the Blue Jays in our thoughts. We know his Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be tough, but we were blessed as baseball fans to see the Doc at his office.
Rest easy, Doc Halladay. You shall never be forgotten.