In today’s society, it is quite rare that one get’s remembered in a world of digital brilliance. The “next big thing” is always right around the corner and a fad can last up to a month before being thrown into the land of the lost toys. Roy Halladay breaks that mold. The masterful righty from Denver who is commonly referred to as Doc, has left a lasting legacy on not one, not two, but now three cities as he has been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and will be officially sworn in on July 21 in Cooperstown, NY. Unfortunately, Halladay will not be able to attend the induction ceremony. On November 7, 2017, Halladay was killed in a plane crash off the Gulf of Mexico. It was later reported that Halladay was the one who was piloting the plane and was the only passenger on board. A great baseball player but more importantly, a father and a husband had been taken away from the world much too soon. As Halladay’s legacy lives on forever, it is important that we honor and remember him by telling his story. A story that started on a bumpy road, but ended in Cooperstown.
June, 1995. The Blue Jays select Roy Halladay with the 17th overall pick in the 1995 MLB Draft. Rumors of a filthy cutter combined with a tantalizing sinker and a curveball that had more drop than a roller coaster, had the Blue Jays feeling very confident about their pick. Halladay was young, but the potential was there and Blue Jays fans across Canada were excited to welcome him to the team. After spending a few years in the minors, Halladay made his major league debut on September 20, 1998 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Halladay pitched 5 innings, gave up 8 hits, struck out 5 and allowed 2 runs to score. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t awful and for the most part, Doc had himself a very promising debut.
September 29, 1998. Halladay was set to make his second career start in the majors in what was the final day of the regular season. The game was against the Tigers and Halladay didn’t just look good, he shined. Roy took a perfect game into the 9th inning and was one out away from immortality. 26 up, 26 down. Halladay had certainly lived up to the hype surrounding his name and entered his first full season in 1999, with an entire city buzzing with excitement. After a sub par season in 1999 in which Halladay finished the year with an 8-7 record to go along with a 3.92 ERA, it was unsure if he truly had the material that aces and all-stars were made of. As 2000 rolled along, all hell broke loose for Doc. His cutter didn’t cut. His sinker became increasingly flat and his curveball was hung like an ornament on a Christmas tree. Nothing was working and before Roy could even blink, he had found himself with a 4-7 record to go along with an abysmal 10.64 ERA. Things needed to change if Halladay was going to have any success in this league. In April of 2001, Halladay was demoted to the minors and would be spending some time with Toronto’s Class-A Dunedin team to start the season. Then pitching coach Mel Queen rebuilt his delivery, changing the arm slot of the six-foot-five right-hander from an over-the-top delivery to a more three-quarter delivery. Believe it or not, this adjustment not only turned his carrer around, but was a huge factor in Halladay becoming a future hall of famer.
In 2002, fresh off his delivery reconstruction, Halladay had his breakout season. The lanky righty posted a 19-7 record with a 2.93 ERA to go along with 168 strikeouts in 239 innings. He was named to the American League all-star team which would be his first of 8 appearances. As impossible as it sounds, Halladay topped his 2002 season in 2003, with one of the most dominating single seasons the Blue Jays had ever seen. Doc finished the year with a 22-7 record, a 3.25 ERA, 204 strikeouts, which was all highlighted by 9 complete games, none more prominent than a 10 inning shutout posted against the Tigers. This was the first extra innings shutout since 1991 when Jack Morris did it in game 7 of the World Series. As a reward for his dominating season, Halladay was named the 2003 AL Cy Young winner as well as the Sporting News AL pitcher of the year and AL outstanding pitcher in the Players Choice Awards. If it was not clear yet, Halladay was a star in this league, and he was only on the front end of his career. The sky was the limit for Doc and the word limit was never in his vocabulary.
In 2005, Halladay suffered the first major injury of his career. Halladay broke his leg in July after being hit by a comeback line drive by Kevin Mench of the Texas Rangers. Halladay would be sidelined for the rest of the season and have to go through a rehab process if he wanted to return to the game he loved, at the level that was expected of him. It is also worth noting that prior to the injury, Halladay was having one of the best years of his carrer, posting a 2.41 ERA and had already been selected for the all-star game. Halladay made his return during the 2006 season and did so with vengeance. He finished the season with a 16-5 record, a 3.19 ERA and a shocking 3 wild pitches thrown all year. He made the all-star team again and had now fully established himself as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Halladay had somewhat of a down year for the Blue Jays in 2007 but responded nicely as he made the all-star team during the next 2 seasons. In December of 2009, Halladay had been announced as one of five pitchers in the starting rotation of the MLB all-decade team according to Sports Illustrated. Days after Halladay had been announced to the all-decade team, it was announced that he had been traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor-league prospects Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor. For Phillies fans, this was their Super Bowl. For Blue Jays fans, it had felt like they had just been stabbed in the heart. Halladay was ready to start a new chapter in his life in Philadelphia and would go on to make perhaps the greatest first impression of all time.
In 2010, his first year with the Phillies, Halladay absolutely shined. He threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history on May 29 against the Florida Marlins, became the first Phillies pitcher since Steve Carlton to win 20 games, and won the Cy Young award convincingly. Halladay finished the season with a 21-10 record, a 2.44 ERA and tossed 9 complete games for the third straight season. Halladay was also given the chance to start in his first ever postseason game on October 6th, 2010 against the Cincinnati Reds. The game was in Philly and Halladay was set to face the best offense in the NL that was complimented with the leagues MVP, Joey Votto. What Doc did that night can only be described as surgical. His sinker was perfect. He used his cutter to paint the corners like he was Van Gogh. His splitter was straight up unfair, and that curve was a thing of pure bliss. By night’s end, Halladay became only the second pitcher in baseball history to throw a no-hitter in the postseason. It was the best start of his carrer and will go down as one of the most dominating performances in the history of sports.
Halladay followed up his Cy Young season in 2011 in dominating fashion, as he finished the year second in Cy Young voting behind Clayton Kershaw. Halladay finished his 2011 campaign with a 19-6 record, a 2.35 ERA and had clocked 220 SO on the season. Halladay had also made his 8th all-star game, finished 9th in the MVP race and was considered around the league as the “true Cy Young.” Few knew it at the time, but this would be the last year Halladay would be truly dominant, the last year he would make the all-star game and the last year he would be considered as one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. In 2012, Halladay was placed on the 15-day DL due to a shoulder strain. In 2013 he underwent surgery to remove a bone spur in his shoulder and in December of 2013, Halladay signed a one-day contract with the Blue Jays and announced his reitrement from the game of baseball. It is left to be said just how much Roy had left in the tank, but it is a true shame that he had to go out with an injury, rather than on top and healthy.
When all is said and done, Roy Halladay is one of the greatest pitchers to ever grace a professional mound. He spent 16 years in the majors, had a career ERA of 3.38, collected over 200 wins, surmounted over 2000 strikeouts and threw 67 complete games, something that will never be done in today’s pitch count ridden age of baseball. Roy Halladay was not only a terrific baseball player, but a great man. After his death, hundreds upon hundreds of stories came out of just how great of a teammate and leader he was. He never put himself first, it was always the team. His family has also came out and said what a great father and husband he was. On a personal note, Doc is easily one of my favorite baseball players of all time. I tried to keep a bias out of this but as a Phillies fan, Halladay graced me with some precious memories. I will never forget where I was when he threw the perfect game in Florida or what I was doing when he made history in the postseason. Halladay was a special player. The type of player you never forget. To conclude, I’m sure I am speaking on behalf of many when I say we miss you dearly and we are so proud of you for making the hall of fame. Although we wish you could come celebrate with us in Cooperstown this summer, we know you will be smiling down on us. You will never be forgotten and your legacy will live on forever. We love ya Doc, rest easy.