Roy “Doc” Halladay: 1977 – 2017

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On Tuesday, 11/7/17, Roy Halladay died when the plane he was flying, crashed. His wife and two sons were not on board. He had retired from baseball in 2013 after a 16 year career. He was 40 years old.

Chase Utley, former Philadelphia Phillies’ second baseman and Halladay’s teammate: “My heart hurts writing this. I can still remember the first day we met. It was 5:45 AM on the first day of Spring Training when I arrived. (The official starting time for players was 10:00 AM. Some arrive earlier.) He was finishing his breakfast but his clothes were soaking wet. I asked if it was raining when he got in. He laughed and said: “No. I just finished my workout.’ I knew right then he was the real deal.”

Utley is a fine ballplayer and a legendary hard worker with an eye for detail. A good base runner, but not the fastest man on the team, his career record for stolen bases is 151 steals in 172 attempts: a success rate of 88%. In 2009, he attempted 23 steals and was never caught. He had a good base running coach and took instruction well. He seldom made mistakes. In February of 2010, he met a man who worked harder than he did.

Success did not come immediately or easily for Halladay. After parts of 3 seasons in the major leagues, the Blue Jays returned him to the minors to rebuild his confidence and master a new pitching motion. He changed from an overhand, 4-seam fastball pitcher to a three-quarter arm motion, 2-seam fastball pitcher. In addition, later, Mariano Rivera taught him to throw a cut fastball. Later, back in the major leagues, his fastball slowed a bit. His response: use his off-speed pitches more often and improve his pitch control. The result was his continued effectiveness as a top notch pitcher.

Halladay’s work ethic was well known, but did his effort bring forth good results? Here are some statistics. His career spanned 16 years: 12 with the Toronto Blue Jays, 4 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He won 203 games and lost 105: a winning percentage of .659. He threw 67 complete games, leading the league 7 times. By comparison, the most complete games by a pitcher in the National League in 2017 was 2. Roy had 5 years in which he had over 200 strikeouts –but fewer than 40 walks. The most times any other pitcher did that was 3. He was one of 6 pitchers to win a Cy Young award in both leagues. For over a decade, he wondered how well he would pitch if he had a chance to pitch in Post-Season play. In 2010, he pitched the first game of the playoffs. He threw a no-hitter. It was only the second time anyone had done that.

In May of 2010, he pitched the 20th perfect game in MLB history; he allowed no runs, no hits, no walks. Three months later, he commemorated the achievement by giving 60 Phillies teammates, coaches, the training staff and other support personnel engraved Baume & Mercier watches in boxes with the inscription: “We did it together. Thanks, Roy Halladay”

For his efforts, he was respected by opponents, revered by teammates, adored by fans, and loved by friends and family. Cole Hamels (teammate): “He made everybody better. Everyone rose to the best of their ability because of his effort.” Shane Victorino (teammate): “Blessed to have shared the field with you as a teammate, competitor, friend, and more importantly a brother.” Brad Lidge (teammate): “I think people really feel good when someone who works that hard gets rewarded. To see the success he had, it makes you feel like everything was right with the baseball world.” Dan Haren (pitching opponent): I wanted to be Roy Halladay.” The Phillies issued a statement that said: “There are no words to describe the sadness that the entire Phillies family is feeling over the loss of one of the most respected human beings to ever play for us.”

While he was playing in the big leagues, Halladay was a multiple time nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award given annually to a baseball player for work in his community. The organizations he supported provided food for Philadelphia’s poor and (along with Chase Utley) helped secure homes for rescue dogs.

When his playing career ended, he spent the Spring and Summer part-time in the Phillies organization mentoring young minor league pitchers. Also, he was the pitching coach at Calvary Christian High School, down the road from the Phillies’ Spring Training facility, as well as another team of young men. His 2 sons were on the teams with whom he worked.

After baseball’s 2018 season (ie, the necessary 5 years after he retired from baseball), the Hall of Fame voters will be permitted to consider including him in the Hall. The decision should be an easy one.

 

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Some other athletes who died in an airplane crash: Roberto Clemente, Thurman Munson, Rocky Marciano, Knute Rockne, the entire United States’ Figure Skating Team (1961), 14 members of the United States’ Amateur Boxing team (1980), Marshall University’s Football Team (1970).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About rcarmean

Two things... First, why have I decided to establish this blog? I like to put essays together. I research an idea or topic looking for information, statistics, stories, quotes, pictures, etc. I enjoy the process and seeing a finished product. I’m told that as I get older, new activities can help maintain energy and keep my brain alert. In other words, I am not doing this for money or fame. Second, regarding the gentleman in the collage of pictures above...it's not me. Those are photos of Christy Mathewson. Why him? When I was young, my primary activity was being sick. It took up much of my time. Eczema (a case so bad I was written up in a medical journal showing doctors what their patients COULD look like), asthma, and allergies. You know allergies: don’t eat this, don’t wear that, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t touch any of these things (eg, dogs, cats, horses --I only saw horses in cowboy movies and TV shows, dust, swimming pools, my brother --OK, that’s an exaggeration, Rick was a fine brother). In my spare time between doctors' appointments, pills, and ointments, baseball kept me sane. In the 1940s and 1950s, when I grew up, pro footballI and basketball had not yet become extremely popular. Baseball truly was “the national pastime.” I listened to games on the radio (remember it? TV without the picture). I read magazines, books, and newspaper accounts of games. I collected baseball cards. I learned about the game’s history, as well as present. The same with its stars. One man stood out: Christy Mathewson. He was a great pitcher for the New York Giants in the early 20th century. But there was much more to him. At a time when professional athletes made little money (yes, there was such a time) and ball players were considered on the same level as actors, artists, and prostitutes, Mathewson stood out. One of his nicknames was: “The Christian Gentleman.” Most men is baseball drank, smoked, cursed, and fought —with other players, umpires, and fans. The fights were physical, not just verbal. Mathewson did none of these things. But he earned the respect of other players who did them all. Even Ty Cobb and John McGraw. There’s more. He was a college graduate (Bucknell University) when most men were lucky to have a high school diploma. He played other sports, including pro football which you wouldn’t recognize. He was handsome. He played in New York City, then as now, the largest city in the country. Excellence and popularity there meant fame and money. He dressed well. Today, his commercials would rival LeBron’s. And, finally, a hero’s life must have tragedy. After his playing career ended, WWI arrived. He suffered from influenza and was exposed to mustard gas. Chemical warfare. His lungs were damaged and he required treatment for the rest of his life. (Like my Grandfather who also fought in The Great War.) He died in 1925. He was 45 years old. I have his picture here because you need to know more about him than me. He was what an athlete could be. Players like him and their accomplishments got me through a sickly, painful childhood and can still sustain me in difficult times. *****
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