Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies in one form or another for nearly 20 years, and has written several books in that time. It’s perhaps no coincidence that two of them were about Roy Halladay. The Rotation: A Season with the Phillies and one of the Greatest Pitching Staffs ever Assembled, and, of course, Doc: The Life of Roy Halladay. Halladay is of course one of the icons of baseball in the 2000s, both for his perennial dominance in Toronto and the last few years of his career in Philadelphia, so it’s natural to expect excellence from his biography. Zolecki delivers.
Doc is a thorough review of Halladay’s life and career, from his childhood in Aurora and Arvada, Colorado, through his professional baseball career and dominance of the sport, to his retirement and untimely death in an airplane crash, and ending after his posthumous Hall of Fame induction and speech by his widow, Brandy.
Halladay’s (Little Roy) father, Harry Leroy Halladay II, or Big Roy, wanted his son to be a professional ballplayer, and moved his family into a new house intended to help train him, by seeking out a basement long enough to pitch in. “We started throwing when he was one,” Big Roy said.
Zolecki captures Halladay’s life in the right combination of depth and breadth, from anecdotes about his sister Heather helping him test his dirt bike ramp and his post-season no-hitter against the Reds; to the development of his split-change and love of flying. I think my favorite is a bit about his return to Toronto as a member of the Phillies. A fan had hung a banner in center field that red “ Welcome back, Doc. Please be gentle.” Another good one is Halladay taking umbrage at a reporter leaving Joe Blanton out of a description of “the rotation” in 2010.
Of course a book like this wouldn’t be right, or even really possible, without interviews with Halladay’s family, and Zolecki interviewed Brandy Halladay and even included her thoughts on the assembly of the book. Brandy, who drew a standing ovation at Roy’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony alongside legends from Henry Aaron to Jim Thome. Her tearful speech that day was very emotional, for obvious reasons, and if you only watch one HoF speech, that’s the one to watch.
Brandy did her best to speak for and honor Roy that day, and so does Zolecki in this book. Roy Halladay was not a perfect human being, though as baseball fans, you might be forgiven for thinking thus. He was a good man, though, and better at his job than pretty much all of us are likely to be at ours. As baseball fans, we were lucky to see him play, and as Phillies’ fans, we were lucky to root for him.
As Shane Victorino said in the first chapter of this book, “Doc’s going to go out and do something special,” and he certainly did that every time he took the mound, whether in front of 40,000 fans or in front of his family’s washing machine. And Zolecki captured it well.
Note: I received a free copy of Doc from the publisher in exchange for this review. The commentary and rating provided are my own, and were not influenced by the above.