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Robots don't have birthdays

Synthetic baseball masterpiece Roy Halladay was constructed in a subterranean facility on this very day, 37 years ago, by scientists who didn't understand (or properly fear) the power they wielded.


One of the original designers of Roy Halladay, Mark I, reached out to TGP for an interview on this, the 37th anniversary of his creation. He demanded to remain anonymous, referring to himself as "Dr. X."

"It's the coolest letter," he says. "We've done tests."

He demanded to have his face blacked out despite this not being a video interview.

Dr. X refers to his creation as "The Manhattan Project but crazier."

"I am become death, the destroyer of worlds," he says, grossly misusing the words of J. Robert Oppenheimer, creator of the atomic bomb.

"I was young," he says in a garbled, distorted voice that was also profoundly unnecessary. "We all were. The university gave us free rein, which was a mistake on their part. My god, we were just kids."

He stops briefly to stare out the window at a flock of ducks alighting from a pond and taking flight into the cool morning air. I know this because he informs me it is happening. "We didn't know what we were doing," he concludes.

Each member of that design team has since been tracked down by their creation and viciously struck out with a nasty cut fastball. All but Dr. X.

"I just had my first kid," he says, lighting a cigarette. "Can I smoke in here?"

"I don't care," I reply. "This is a phone interview. And I don't know where you are."

The sound of a match being struck. "My wife is even more sensitive about it, now with a baby in the house. 'When will science invent a husband with a brain for me?' She asks. I think she's joking, but it still stings. Don't tell anyone, but science is actually way behind in the synthetic husband field." He sighs. "I'll bet Roy is a terrific father."

"When I think about all the kids watching their dads play ball on TV, thinking maybe this time he'll hit that home run for them - those are the sleepless nights. Because against Roy Halladay, their daddy was likely heading back to the dugout, ashamed of himself."

Indeed, Phillies and Blue Jays fans can undoubtedly picture the faces of humiliated Roy Halladay victims with ease. I tell Dr. X this, picturing Dan Uggla's classic post-K waddle back to a dugout full of Braves who don't want to look him in the face.

"You sound like you're smiling right now," Dr. X replies. "That's weird."

I inform him that it's not weird, and he disagrees.

It was 37 years ago that Dr. X helped create the cyborg the world knew as "Roy Halladay," who would go onto a brilliant career as a pitcher in Major League Baseball, with 2,117 career humiliations of other batters. He was the second pitcher in history to throw a no-hitter in the playoffs and recorded a perfect game in 2010.

While on a "fishing trip" in the Amazon, Halladay's true nature almost surfaced in the national media when he ripped a live anaconda in half during a brief escape.

"Looking back, I can say with the utmost confidence that we really lost control of that situation," Dr. X says. The team regrouped, years after they'd completed their work, to try and rewire some of Halladay's more threatening coding in a secret base in South America. Halladay was lured to the continent by way of a "fishing trip" with friend "Chris Carpenter," whose devastating pitching prowess led to Halladay believing he had discovered another of his kind.

Carpenter was human, Dr. X maintains. Halladay's repeated attempt to uplink with the Cardinals starting pitcher were at first confusing, until eventually the design team had to level with Carpenter.

"We met with Chris at a bar following a game in St. Louis,' Dr. X recalls. "We got him to come by sending him a note with cutout letters from a magazine saying we had his kids. He was... He was real pissed."

Dr. X sighs, the memory weighing heavy on his head like a crown worn by the King of Horrible Ideas.

"We were all sitting at the bar, pretending to read newspapers. In the end, this attempt to blend in made us stand out in a seriously obvious way. Carpenter came in and kicked all of our asses."

When the beatings stopped, the team was finally able to convey the situation as well as their attempt at a solution, and got Carpenter to be their inside man in the plan to snare Halladay in Brazil. Halladay saw through the facade, eventually, which led to the escape and the dead anaconda.

"The stories said that kid he found was hiding in the tree from the snake," Dr. X says. "But that's not what he was hiding from."

Halladay's monster career continued, but not long after, he began to show signs of stress. His technology was failing him. And as his wiring began to go kablooie, he sought answers - answers in the form of his creators.

"The first time he came for one of us, I knew he'd come for all of us," laments the doctor. "That's how it always works in horror movies, right? I mean, it does."

I ask why, as a scientist, he put so much stock in works of fiction to determine the outcome of a problem. He remains silent. "You're a work of fiction," he decides to mutter.

"Some of the guys tries to hide, but Halladay always found them," he says. Cities, the countryside, underground; it was impossible to avoid him. He was just too good. "One colleague of mine tried to just stay on airplanes most of the time. But it turned out Halladay was flying the plane."

Halladay would force them to stand there, usually in tears, begging for mercy, as he threw nonstop cutters in an act of dominance or revenge or something. He never got the answers he needed, though, and his decline continued.

"It was difficult, these last few years," he says. "There was relief, sure; that after many years of horror, he was finally starting to wear down. For a time, we were concerned this would just go on forever, or perhaps he'd develop the capacity for time travel and wreak havoc up and down baseball's historic timeline."

The ducks return to the pond outside, he says. I tell him I'm asking the questions here. He says that wasn't a question. We move on.

What does the team have planned, now that Halladay has departed from what he was designed to do?

"Keep our distance," he says. "We narrowly avoided disaster. I mean, he made men miserable on the ball field for over a decade. But, in the right context, that's not so bad. He didn't go nuclear or anything. That would have been bad, I guess."

I ask if that was literally a possibility.

"Um," he replies.

Does the Halladay Design Team currently have any other creations embedded in MLB?

"That's classified, but I can say that none are of Halladay's caliber. Most are oddly-shaped misfit toys with some massive malfunction or another. I can say that one of them rhymes with Schmeff Schmanschmip."

I ask if it is Jeff Manship.

He hangs up.

Days after the conclusion of our interview, "Dr. X" called back, weeping. He explained they were tears of joy that he no longer had to live in fear.

He still had the voice distorter on. I fear he does not know how to disable it.