Roy Halladay transcended baseball for the Phillies and their fans
On April 5, 2010 a 10th-grade student ran off the bus at 2:45 p.m. to see Roy Halladay’s first start as a Phillie. When I turned on the TV he’d just been taken out of the game after pitching seven innings against Washington. The highlights were dazzling; seven innings, six hits, one earned run, one walk, and nine strikeouts. Doc had thrown just 88 pitches in his Phillies debut, but with the team up 11-1 Charlie Manuel wasn’t taking any chances on Doc’s health.
Antonio Bastardo, Danys Baez, and David Herndon pitched two innings of shutout baseball in relief to start game one of 162 during a magical 2010 season.
Fast-forward to May 29 to a cool night in Ocean City, New Jersey. There’s something special about baseball and being down the shore, and this night was as special as it could possibly get.
Sitting in the recliner to the right of the television I watched Doc strikeout 11 Marlins hitters in a game that went just over two hours. The first out of the ninth inning was Mike Lamb hitting a 2-1 pitch to the warning track in straightaway center field that made Philadelphia’s collective heart stop.
After recording that 11th strikeout and forcing Ronny Paulino to ground out to Juan Castro at third base, you could only sit and watch in awe as Halladay, Carlos Ruiz, and Ryan Howard embrace out on the mound.
It’s a travesty that only 25,000 were on hand in Florida to watch him work his magic.
Ruben Amaro Jr. did everything he could to make this team a champion at seasons end. Trading for Roy Oswalt and Mike Sweeney while stacking the bench with Ross Gload, Wilson Valdez, Greg Dobbs, and Brian Schneider.
When Halladay clinched the National League East against Washington the team waited for him, Schneider, and Sweeney to pop the first bottles as the veterans were making their first postseason runs.
Halladay’s magical season carried him over into October for the first time in his career. Five of the first nine Reds hitters grounded out against Doc, and you knew something special was going to happen.
It should have been perfection once again, but a borderline walk to Jay Bruce in the top of the 5th gave Cincinnati their only baserunner of the National League Division Series opener.
We all know how this one ends. Ruiz makes an incredible throw from his knees in front of the plate where he has to reach back for the ball and throw over Brandon Phillips to record the final out of the second no-hitter in postseason history.
Heartbreak would only crush the 2010 Phillies, arguably the greatest team in franchise history. Halladay went on to win his second Cy Young award, making him the sixth player to win the award in both the American and National League.
Coming off his Cy Young campaign Halladay was not to be outdone with the Five Aces going into the season: Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton, and Doc. Halladay insisted Blanton be included, which surely destroyed Sports Illustrated’s plan to put each of the four stars on a set of cards as the cover.
Another magical season resulted in a playoff run and a second place finish in the Cy Young for Halladay. He finished behind Clayton Kershaw, who had more strikeouts and wins that season for the Dodgers.
To put this in an even greater perspective, Lee would finish third in the Cy Young and Hamels finished fifth. Rookie Vance Worley finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting to Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman.
Ultimately, a 1-0 loss to the Cardinals with the symbolic scene of Ryan Howard collapsing on the first baseline would be the beginning of the end of this great era.
Halladay also began to wear down in his final two seasons in Philadelphia. He was laboring in Chicago and Miami had sweat dripping off his cap, which was as red as his face. His shoulder started to go, and with that went his velocity.
Even the greatest doctor couldn’t save his own arm walking off the mound in Miami on September 23 when he could only muscle through one-third of an inning, walking two batters and giving up a run on 16 pitches.
It was the official ending of a Hall of Fame career, walking off the mound in the same town where he threw his perfect game just four years ago.
Few realized it, but Halladay was very passionate about flying on social media. I often saw him share pictures of planes and talking about getting his license.
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But as many times as he talked about planes you can double the number of times he talked about his two sons and coaching their teams.
Roy Halladay is the one who brought me closer to baseball than anyone ever did. While Chase Utley was and remains my favorite player of all-time, Doc is the one who kept me glued to the television when the offense wasn’t on the field.
He took a team primarily known for their offense during their early World Series stretch with Utley, Howard, Rollins, Burrell, Victorino, Werth, Ibanez, and Doc’s dear friend Carlos Ruiz.
You never moved when Halladay was on the mound because you knew you were watching the definition of greatness right before your eyes.
Rest in Peace, Doc. You were the greatest pitcher of your generation, and undoubtedly the greatest husband and father of your generation as well. We’ll see you in Cooperstown.