Editors note: Today Roy Halladay takes the hill against the Marlins and Josh Johnson. I was fortunate enough to be at the game The last time these guys faced each other What follows is my recollection of the night. I thought it might be fitting today. I apologize in advance for the self indulgence and first person perspective.
I got the call from my father that Saturday around 10:00.
Dad: You at work?
me: yeah why?
Dad; S*&t. Mikey has 4 tickets to the Marlins game. Was gonna see if you wanted to go with the kid.
Me: Really? 2 hours notice?
Dad: No the game isn't till 7.
Me: Who's pitching?
I knew I had to try and make this happen but I didn't know how.
Me: Michelle's gonna kill me I promised I'd take her out tonight.
Dad: It's Halladay.
Me: Let me make some calls.
I spent the next three hours convincing my wife I'd spend the day with her the next day and wouldn't be tired, and we'd do dinner another night. I tried everything in my power to get someone to cover for me. I was at work till 5. In a shirt and tie. There was rain in the forecast. It's easily a 2 hour drive from my office. I had no way of leaving on time. As much as I wanted to go, it didn't look good.
Me: I can't get anyone to cover.
Dad: What time you there till?
Me: 5. I don't think its gonna work. We'll do it another time.
Dad: Here's what we'll do. Mikey and I will get the kid, grab you some clothes, pick you up at your office around 4:45. and hit the road. worse case scenario we miss the top of the 1st.
Me: Michelle wasn't too happy about breaking our plans, dad.
Dad: She'll get over it.
Me: You don't know my wife. Plus, it looks like rain.. I've got company coming tomorrow, Michelle...
Dad: Grow a pair.
Me: I don't know.
Dad: It's Halladay man. If you don't go you'll regret it.and I want to take my grandson to a game.
Me: Tell you what. pick up Joey. You can take him.
Dad: You sure?
And that's how I almost missed Roy Halladay's perfect game.I wanted to go, but I knew my wife was not going to like the idea. So I called her.
Me: I'm gonna stay home but Dad's gonna pick up Joey and....
Michelle: No way. he's not taking him by himself.
Michelle: No. Just go already. You know you want to.
Me:No Its okay let him take him.
I hung up the phone. settled back into my desk and stared blankly at the screen. It was 3:30. The next hour I had a sinking feeling that I was making some huge mistake, that the powers of baseball were sending me some message. I know that sounds corny but I really felt like I was supposed to go to this game. I really honestly felt like it was gonna be something special. More because Halladay was starting and Joey was going to go. He'd never been before.
At 4:00 the phone rang.
Michelle: Your dad's on his way to pick you up. I gave him your Ibanez shirt, and some shorts. Go. Have a good time.
Me: You sure?
Michelle: Don't smoke cigars around my son. and be ready to clean the house all day tomorrow. No game on the TV. You're my work slave.
They picked me up at 5. It's a two hour drive from my office. We made it to Sun Life Pro Player Landshark Joe Robbie Bowl in 1 hour and 45 minutes in a minivan. Unfortunately, parking was a mess that night and we missed the first two AB's by the time we got into the stadium, grabbed food and sat down. Our seats were great. Third base line about 10 rows up. We settled in to our seats.
Dad: What a s&%**y place to watch a ballgame.
Joey: That's a bad word poppy. Say Poop.
Mikey: At least it doesn't smell like pee.
Dad: The vet had charm Mike. this place is just...
Dad: Couldn't say it better myself.
PA: Now batting.. second baseman CHASE UTLEY!
Me: Joey, that's Chase Utley. The best 2nd baseman in the game, my boy.
Joey: I want ice cream.
So I went to get ice cream at the inning break. By the time I got back, the Phils were up again.
Me: What happened?
Dad: K,K, ground out.
Dad: Yeah. it's gonna be a pitchers duel.
And it was.
The Phils threatened, but Johnson struck out Halladay with runners on, and Roy was dominant, recording two more K's.
Mikey: Man, he's good.
Dad: he's better than good tonight, he's unhittable.
Me: It's the second inning dad. Be realistic.
Dad:Wanna bet on it?
Me: do you know the odds on that?
Dad: Lunch Monday.
After Dan Uggla struck out My father chimed in.
Dad: Did you see the way Uggla shook his head? They've got no chance tonight. I'm telling you, he's unhittable.
I was starting to agree with him. In the second inning. In my mind, I was dreaming that we were about to witness magic.
Dad: The problem is we need to score a run. That could take 15 innings tonight.
And that's really when it started. In the stands that night. In the second inning.
With one out Wilson Valdez singled. Bringing Utley to the plate.
PA: Now batting 2nd baseman Chase Utley!
Joey: hes the best, right dad?
the crack of the bat was deafening as the ball launched toward center field and my son rose from his seat.
Joey: HOME RUN!!
Dad: A home run goes out of the park Bud. That's a triple.
Me: No it's an Error.It played off Maybins glove.
Joey: An error is a mistake, right Dad?
Joey: Does he get a do over to try a home run?
Me: No buddy. There are no do overs.
Joey: That's dumb.
Dad: That's baseball. Like life, Joe. No do overs.
By that time my father had finished spouting wisdom, Valdez had crossed home. 1-0 Phils.
Dad: that might be all we need tonight.
I had a feeling he was right.
Joey: I hava go potty.
Mikey: If we were at the vet you could go right here Joe.
Me: Mikey, cmon...
Dad: I'll take him. We'll get crackerjacks.
Joey: hip hip horray!
We ate Crackerjacks, and pizza, and ice cream over the next three innings.Time flew, as the game breezed by and the action on the field was all Halladay and Johnson. Three innings seemed like three minutes.
By the middle of the 6th inning, you could feel it in the air. With surgical precision, Doc cut(ter'd) through 15 batters straight, striking out six of them. Not a baserunner. No errors. No walks. Just pure unbridled domination.
A strikeout to start the sixth made it 7 and 16 in a row.I looked at my old man and I knew we were thinking the same thing. This was real.
Dad: Don't say it.
Joey: Say what Poppy?
Mikey: Halladay hasn't allowed a base runner. That's a big deal.
Joey: Nobody got A HIT? WHAT?
Then it happened. Cameron Maybin hit a soft grounder to short and it looked like he might beat it out, We stood up. But MVP in waiting Wilson Valdez rocketed the ball and got him by a step. And when I say rocketed, I mean rocketed. at least that's how I remember it.
Mikey: Ya know, If Rollins wasn't hurt, Maybin might be safe there.
I bit my tongue. Halladay got Johnson to end the inning.
it was about that time that everyone in the stands started to feel what I had been feeling since the second inning; that we were witnessing something historic. The monotony of a pitchers duel was starting to morph into the possibillity of something monumental. I can't explain it really. I have been to a few other games where a pitcher was no hitting or perfect through 4, 5 6 innings. but In every one of those instances you expected the hit or the walk to come. It's almost like you wait for the disappointment. This game was different. For some reason,there was never any doubt that it was going to happen.
On this night, the entire stadium, all 5,000 or so of the suggested 15,00 in attendance were feeling something different.
The improbable was almost a foregone conclusion.
Dad: Screw it, I'm saying it. the only way this ends bad is if they bunt or dribble something. They can't make decent contact. he's insane.
I put up an affront but I agreed with him 100%.
Joey: I'm hungry.and I wanna go sleep.
Me: Stay awake Bud. you want cotton candy?
We got the kid some cotton candy.He wasn't falling asleep. Not on this night.
Bottom of the 8th
One two one pitch, Jorge Cantu hits a short hop to 3B Juan Castro who makes an excellent play.Halladay just glares.
Mikey: that's two plays by two subs.
Dad: Its written in the stars I'm telling you!
editors note: He didn't actually say written in the stars, but I like to remember it that way....
A strikeout to Dan Uggla and a weak pop up to short by Cody Ross later and we were 3 outs away.
I don't remember anything that happened in the top of the ninth from the Phils offense. All I remember is that it took what seemed like days to get through 3 batters and 11 pitches. I also remember vividly, this exchange.
Dad: Well, glad you came?
Dad: Pretty cool.
Me: It's beyond words Pop.
there was a brief silence.
Dad: No matter how it ends, no matter what happens, to me...this...you and him, his first game?
Me: I know.
With a tear in his eye my father said it.
Dad: This night has been perfect.
Me: I know.
I can count on one hand the number of times my father and I have said those three words to one another. usually they come at Funerals or weddings, or such. But that exchange; baseball. For us, thats what we were saying that night.
Joey: I'm hungry and I want to go to sleep.
Dad: Come sit on Poppys lap and eat some cracker jacks.
They sang take me out to the ballgame again, I looked at my father and my son. then looked at my father and our eyes met. We both cried a little and laughed it off. Its silly, I know. But for us there was more to this than a game. It was emotional. It was magical. It was perfect.
Bottom of the 9th
Halladay comes out to the mound, to a deafening (for 5000 of the suggested 15000 people in attendance) standing ovation. No one sat for the rest of the game and my father held my son for the next three outs.
I watched the 4th pitch to Mike Lamb soar into the outfield and into Shane's glove.
called strike 3 to Wes Helms and the electricity is flowing.
Dad: (to Joey) Watch Joe. You'll never see this again in your life.
Dad: (shouting at me over the deafening noise...) 60 years on this earth and I've never seen anything like this.
He held my son tight, bouncing him in his arms. I just smiled.
Dad: Let's go Roy!
Joey: Let's go Roy!
And they chanted together. the whole section joined in. Every pitch was a flashbulb of brightness.
It is here that I make my confession. I had no doubt that the conclusion was foregone. That the improbable was probable. And I did not see the ball roll to third base, or the throw to first, Or Chooch run to the mound or the beginnings of the celebration.
I only saw my father lift my son high into the air. Throwing him up and down like a beach ball in the muggy Florida heat. At that moment, for me at least, that was what mattered. the entire stadium was on its feet, screaming and shouting and jumping up and down. I just stared at my father and son. A single tear rolled down my cheek.
Mikey grabbed the camera and we took a picture with the scoreboard behind us.The rest is a blur.
Dad: You owe me lunch!
ME: I owe you lunch!
Joey: Can we go now?
We went. after a bit of hugging, and a trip to the souvenir stand. But the night never left. Not on the car ride home, not the next day when I was vacuuming to my hearts content, not 2 years later and probably not years from now, when my father is gone, and I'm at a game with my son, holding his son on my lap. I'm sure I'll remember that night, and the new generation, on that new day when the ball hits the bat, it will all be perfect anew.
1-3, 3-1, Utley or Glavis, Howard or Pierre, who the hell cares. There's a ball game tonight and Roy Halladay is on the hill. Against Josh Johnson. Anything can happen. Who knows. He might just have a little magic left. If you're in Philly, and have a kid and a dad, or a mom and a daughter, break your plans. go scalp a ticket and take them to a ballgame.
You might just regret it if you don't.