There will never be another like number 32: Roy Halladay.
It still doesn’t feel real and words can’t even begin to describe how devastating his loss is. People are gutted and heartbroken that a legend is gone. To the baseball community, the Blue Jays organization and more importantly, Roy’s family, there is a giant void where he used to be.
His playing career was over, but judging by his Twitter feed, Halladay was having the time of his life as a retired baseball player. He was a man who genuinely was enjoying life away from the game – a game which he played and excelled at for close to 20 years.
This was a relatively new side of Halladay, one not seen very often during his playing days with the Blue Jays and the Phillies. For the most part, he was a cold, calculated, cunning pitcher on the mound. He was the consummate competitor. Halladay was all business when it came to baseball.
His devout dedication to his craft is what made him revered not only by his peers, but by the fans. In a game which demands near perfection, Halladay delivered all that and more.
It truly was a treat to watch him work every five days on the mound. No matter whether his team was in contention or not, Halladay starts were must-watch television. Whenever he took the mound, he was bound to do something incredible.
Most days, he did.
For a seven-year stretch, Halladay was one of the few bright spots about the Toronto Blue Jays. Although the team as a whole middled in mediocrity, Doc prepared and pitched every game as if it were Game 7 of the World Series. He may not have had the cast of characters around him in Toronto to build a contender, but Halladay made the Blue Jays watchable through the early 2000’s.
Although I vaguely recall the day-to-day games of the Blue Jays glory days of the early 90’s, I vividly recall Roy Halladay’s time with the Blue Jays. This start in particular was one of my favourite by Doc. He cut up the Yankees in a complete game one-hitter. It was vintage Halladay.
Fans of this generation likely also remember just how utterly dominant Doc was during that time period. It was Dave Stieb-esque, but Roy Halladay carried the torch as the franchise’s next great ace.
Today, that term – ace – gets thrown around lightly. Number one starters are often anointed as aces, but it takes a certain pedigree to earn that title. Roy Halladay was the personification of “ace”. He carried that title as a Toronto Blue Jay and over to the National League as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Halladay’s move from the Blue Jays to the Phillies was one that was met with sadness, but not disappointment. During the 2009 season, it was very apparent the Blue Jays wanted to grant his wish to be traded to a contender, and the club obliged. But there was no ill will from the Blue Jays fan base towards Halladay in that trade; they knew he did everything in his power during his 12 seasons in Toronto to make the Blue Jays a contender.
For the next few years, Blue Jays fans watched from afar as their former ace set the National League on fire and finally the rest of baseball opened their eyes to what everybody in Toronto already knew; Halladay was a generational talent.
He threw a perfect game and a no-hitter in the playoffs during the same calendar year. Doc may not have received a World Series ring, but his first two years with the Phillies were magical; much like his final seven years with the Blue Jays.
His playing career fizzled out rather unexpectedly in 2013, but at the end of the year, Halladay signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. I remember being quite shocked by this news. It isn’t very often that a player leaves Toronto and comes back; especially not someone like Halladay who left for greener pastures.
He didn’t have to come back and do that, but he did. For that, Blue Jays fans were grateful.
As the years passed and Halladay eased into the retirement phase of his career, like a fine wine, the eye-popping numbers from his career only got better with age. He’ll be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2019, and while his case for Cooperstown may not be certain, Doc’s impact on the Blue Jays franchise is indelible.
I can’t think of a better way for the Blue Jays to honour Roy Halladay than to retire his number 32, to enshrine his name on the Level of Excellence and to erect a statue in his honour outside the stadium. Even all those gestures might not be enough of a tribute to one of the greatest Blue Jays ever.
Doc took the torch from Carlos Delgado and was the face of the franchise for close to a decade. Then, Halladay passed the baton onto Jose Bautista and that torch will eventually be passed onto the next franchise icon.
Halladay helped reinvigorate a Blue Jays fan base that had long been dormant. He gave Blue Jays fans something to cheer for when there wasn’t much to be hopeful for in Toronto. Halladay pitched with surgical-like precision and made it look effortless. He barely broke a smile on the mound, but damn it if he didn’t make fans grin from ear to ear.
I’ve never met the man, I’ve never even been in the same room as him, but every five days, Roy Halladay made magic happen on my television. For that, I’m honoured and grateful.
Rest in peace, Harry LeRoy Halladay III.