Roy Halladay died yesterday when his plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He was 40 years old.
A former Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher, Halladay took home the Cy Young Award twice during his career and was elected to the All-Star team eight times. Over his 16 seasons, ‘Doc’ went 203-105 with a 3.38 career ERA.
I can vividly remember watching Halladay during my adolescent days and being in awe of his presence on the mound. He never looked flustered or even excited to be out there. He was like a lone gunman walking into a saloon at high noon and knowing that he would come out of their unscathed. His quiet confidence and composure made it all the better to watch him dominate some of the best hitters in baseball.
During his 11 seasons north of the border, Roy Halladay was one of the lone bright spots on mostly mediocre Blue Jays’ squads. He claimed his first Cy Young in 2003 when he won 22 games and struck out 204 while only giving up 32 walks in 266 innings. In 2009, he was named to Sports Illustrated’s MLB All-Decade Team as one of only five pitchers.
In December of that same year, Halladay was traded to the defending NL Champions, the Philadelphia Phillies. Doc was finally getting a chance to pitch for a team with legitimate championship aspirations, seeing as they had won the World Series in 2008 and finished second to the Yankees in 2009. During his first season in the city of Brotherly Love, Halladay quickly became a crowd favorite and tortured NL hitters the way he had done to the American League for over a decade.
He became the first Phillies’ starter since Steve Carlton to win 20 games, totaling 21 to go along with a 2.44 ERA. He also set a career high with 219 strikeouts and issued only 30 walks in 250.2 innings. Halladay led the National League in wins, innings pitched, and complete games with 9, including four shutouts.
His first season in Philadelphia was not without some history, as Roy Halladay completed not one, but two rare feats for a pitcher in the same year.
The first came on May 29 in Miami. Against the division rival Marlins, Halladay threw the 20th perfect game in Major League history. He set down all 27 batters he faced in order, striking out 11 on his way to a nail-biting 1-0 victory.
The second feat put Halladay into even more rarified air, as he took the mound for his first-ever postseason start. In game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds, Halladay became only the second pitcher in MLB history to throw a no-hitter in a playoff game. He allowed only one walk, facing only one batter above the minimum of 27. With this no-no, Halladay became the only pitcher to throw a perfect game AND a no-hitter in the same season. Sandy Koufax never did that, neither did Nolan Ryan, or Walter Johnson. Only Doc Halladay.
Roy Halladay was not only a phenomenal pitcher, but a spectacular human. He was always known as a great clubhouse guy and took care of his teammates and coaches. One example came after his perfect game, when he purchased 60 Swiss watches for everyone in the clubhouse. An inscription on the box read: “We did it together. Thanks, Roy Halladay.”
Halladay also gave back to his community during his playing days, donating $100,000 of his contract every year to the Jays Care Kid Foundation. He also was nominated multiple times for the Roberto Clemente Award for his work with underprivileged children, including remodeling “Doc’s Box” at the Rogers Centre to be more kid-friendly.
2018 will be Halladay’s first year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame and I have no doubt in my mind that he should be a first-ballot member. It is heartbreaking to think that a man with so much life ahead of him will be entered posthumously. He joins greats like Roberto Clemente, Ron Santo, and Nellie Fox who passed before being called to Cooperstown.
Roy Halladay will always be remembered as one of the best pitcher’s of his generation and one of the greatest pitchers I had the pleasure to watch take the mound.