clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Roy Halladay packed a lifetime of memories into his four seasons in Philadelphia

“We did it together. Thanks, Roy Halladay.”

Roy Halladay Press Conference Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Life is a flickering mess of moments, that when grouped together create the people we are. For the rest of time, and especially over the next few days, we’ll be reminded again and again what person Roy Halladay was. Below, you’ll find a collection of some of the memories—hopefully, a lot of the less obvious ones—that helped make him the Roy Halladay we felt like we knew.

Being introduced to Philadelphia

We have a history in this city of being overwhelmed by the mere arrival of legendary players with the intention of wearing Phillies uniforms, instantly willing to grant them immortality before they even get on the field. Which, in the cases of both Jim Thome and Roy Halladay, and not Danny Tartabull, was affection well rewarded.

Doc’s smiling face on day one with a proud Ruben Amaro sitting next to him soothed the irritation of the first Cliff Lee trade and set the stage for the Cliff Lee return. In between, Halladay began a two-year run in a Phillies uniform that saw him win a Cy Young Award, throw a perfect game, make the playoffs twice, throw a post season no-hitter, win over 20 games, and all the other events we all experienced on a level that feels more than personal, even though we may not have even been there in person.

But none of it would have happened if Halladay hadn’t wanted to be here in the first place; and for the low price of several top prospects and a massive, interleague, multi-team deal, he was.

Making his first start with the Phillies

As has been rightfully reiterated over the past few days, it doesn’t really matter when Roy Halladay got here, because anyone there on opening day 2010 in Washington knew that he’d been with the Phillies forever. That’s not to deny the over a decade he’d played with the Blue Jays, during which he dominated in the league’s toughest division and renovated a box suite for the specific usage of sick children he hosted at home games, but few athletes are embraced with the immediacy that we wrapped our arms around Doc.

And if his pitching was any indication, he loved us right back. Charlie Manuel must have had him on a “short” leash that day, letting him go only seven innings and 88 pitches—during which he struck out nine Nationals and allowed only a single run—but it was, for once, exactly what fans had been promised. There was no over exaggeration when it came to Roy Halladay, and on day one, we knew it already.

The Nationals knew it, too.

May 1, 2010 vs. Mets

With each elite pitching acquisition, the Mets could only peek over the fence and fester in their jealousy of the Phillies. The worst part must have been when the Phillies would come play in their yard.

On May 1, the Mets didn’t have to lose to Doc at home, at least. They came down the turnpike for a better look at what the Phillies were building, but you can’t hit what you can’t see. Jose Reyes and the gang could only muster three base hits in their first exposure to Halladay, while the Phillies piled on the runs against [*squints at box score*] Mike Pelfrey in a deeply satisfying regular season win. Doc needed 118 pitches to finish them off for the CGSO, which, after less than a month with the team, was already his second (and third CG). Like the Nats, the Mets were learning a hard lesson: this is a man you will face multiple times a year now, so pencil those L’s on the schedule now, because more are coming.

Giving watches to his teammates for his perfect game

All eyes were on Halladay on May 29, 2010, when he threw the 18th perfect game in MLB history, putting him between titans of the sport like Dallas Braden and Phil Humber. But Halladay’s eyes, of course, were on the defense behind him, and he wasn’t going to let them walk away without any recognition.

Not long after his perfection was in the books, Halladay’s Phillies teammates were gifted small brown boxes containing individualized watches; a present from their ace. Inscribed in the boxes was the Halladay ethos:

"We did it together. Thanks, Roy Halladay."

Returning to Toronto without mercy

As luck would have it for reeling Jays fans, Halladay and the Phillies were scheduled to take on Toronto in 2010, just a couple of months after the beloved 12-year veteran of the Blue Jays staff had departed. Doc was typically unfazed, despite the emotions flying around, but the game was taking place in Philadelphia, so the emotions were unceremoniously grabbed out of the air and smothered. Halladay, in turn, smothered the Jays in a 9-0 victory through which he pitched seven innings, gently striking out only a mere four hitters.

The real hurt came the following season in 2011, when Halladay returned to Toronto to pitch for the first time since he’d been traded. On Canada Day weekend. The first 10,000 fans in the Rogers Centre received a free Canada Day t-shirt. All of the fans, and the Blue Jays lineup, received Roy Halladay.

Doc needed 110 pitches to weave through all nine innings, a magnificent performance that had become all too typical by this point: 8 SO. 3 ER. 1 BB. He even gifted Jose Bautista a home run in the fourth inning, just to give the fans something to cheer about. The man was a giver.

Meeting Don Larsen

Following Doc’s 2010 playoff no-hitter, the only other man to match the feat, Don Larsen, offered him a subdued congratulations: "Quite a nice effort he had. You have to give him credit for that."

But fate, and an autograph event in Valley Forge in 2011, put them in the same room, creating an anomaly that collectively blacked out the baseball world with its coolness. Think back. Do you recall what you were doing on January 23, 2011? You do not. Because we all lost consciousness until Halladay and Larsen were no longer in close proximity with each other.

Striking out 14 batters twice in one season, once in a loss

Roy Halladay was so good, you didn’t even have to make stuff up about him.

But you could.

For every hilarious lie, there was an astounding truth. Halladay was never satisfied to let his defense do all the work, and pounded calculated attacks on each individual hitter based on his knowledge of their tendencies and the input of his catcher. That’s why it was so predictable to see him K eight or nine guys in a start, but it was also never surprising—though always thrilling—to see him cross that threshold into double-digit terror for the opposing team.

He did it three times in 2011, crushing the Mets on May 5 with 10 strikeouts in seven innings. But the other two times saw him punch into Kerry Wood territory, eliminating batters with little care for their dignity. The first time was when he racked up 14 K’s on April 24 against the Padres, a dangerous precedent to set so early in the season. But at this point, we’d come to expect this level of dominance from Roy Halladay, and he had come to expect it from himself. The erasure of entire lineups was the main part of how he pitched. He strung together a magnificent 8.2-inning symphony of pitching, sprinkling strikeouts throughout the entire roster, proving no San Diego hitter had the prowess to touch him. And even though the contest took place about as far from Philadelphia as the Phillies play, there were cheers for every out pitch from his loyal following.

The next time he struck out 14 hitters in a game, he lasted through that pesky final out, only for his offense to let him down in a 3-2 loss. The Diamondbacks managed to squeak a few hits off him—Lyle Overbay had a three-hit day, of all people—but clearly, something about the NL West made Doc see red. The double dose of 14-strikeout performances helped get his SO/9 that season up to 8.5 for the year—the highest it had been since 1998.

Professing his love for Chase Utley

“It’s only gonna get funner.”

By the end of 2010, the Nationals were checking the Phillies Probable Starters listings and rolling their eyes. Facing Doc was an unpleasant experience for hitters across baseball, and they were one of the unlucky teams that had to keep facing him. They were essentially a non-factor in his two-hit, CGSO of Washington, in Washington, to clinch the Phillies’ 2010 playoff berth.

A very defeated-sounding Washington Post recap seemed to concede the city’s ownership to him.

Monday night at Nationals Park belonged to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals rendered props on their own home field. Visiting fans packed the seats not left vacant. Roy Halladay faced 28 batters in nine innings, yielded two base runners and allowed seven balls out of the infield. The Phillies retreated to their clubhouse, expectant plastic sheets hanging from their lockers to block the celebratory champagne.

And after that, all Doc had to do was utter a single word, and we ran with it for the next few years.

Bringing joy to Twitter

Twitter, in the digital age, has allowed us a more direct line to the athletes we love, which is typically more problematic then anything. But as Doc shut down lineup after lineup in the National League, a sinister grimace on his otherwise jovial face, it became curious to wonder just what made him tick.

In March 2014, we got our wish. Doc was on Twitter, and from that time on we got to see his love of flying, his cheery outlook even on days when his car broke down, getting busted by the cops for riding a unicycle, and that time he snuck a picture with a potentially still-oblivious fan wearing a Roy Halladay shirsey. And of course, that trip to the zoo that cemented his status not just as a Philly athlete legend, but as a man of the people—especially this person, who he saved from an anaconda in the Amazon.

Calling a separate press conference to apologize to fans

So of the people, in fact, that he felt we deserved a personal apology for the break down of his well-used arm and subsequent retirement. Which we didn’t.

Philadelphia sports fandom is often defined by the neediness and whininess of the mob; of people who, with no patience or perspective, feel like they deserve constant winning. Roy Halladay, one of the best pitchers of his generation and who actually desired to leave his home in Toronto behind to come here, actually felt as though the people around here—some of whom so gleefully turn on their heroes for little to no reason—deserved an extra explanation and apology for the end of his career. He was forced to stop doing what he loved, and yet one of his first thoughts was addressing tens of thousands of strangers.

The truth was, Doc didn’t owe anybody anything; and yet, he never stopped giving.

Lamenting the rally squirrel in his retirement press conference

Roy Halladay put down some of the most feared hitters of a generation without breaking a sweat. But the one enemy he could never defeat was Earth’s yellow sun a St. Louis-area squirrel.

In Philadelphia, that rodent would have been speared and roasted over a pit, but apparently in St. Louis they’re a lot more liberal about who is allowed on the field during a game. We all remember, of course, when a squirrel darted between Skip Schumaker at the plate and Roy Oswalt on the mound, changing the tide of the 2011 NLDS for no reason and creating the image the Cardinals would later have engraved on their World Series rings. The Rally Squirrel carried with it the momentum the Cardinals needed to go all the way, robbing Halladay of what would be his last chance to win a much-deserved World Series title.

Like most things, Doc was able to let this go. But it was clearly still running through his head, as during his retirement press conference, he couldn’t quite let it go.

"I think the one thing I took away from that is you can have the best team on paper, you can have the guys who want it the most. But when the squirrel runs across home plate while your team is trying to pitch, there is nothing you can do about that."