Roy Halladay spent the final years of his life on baseball fields in Florida that were just a few miles from where he had famously resurrected his career in 2001.
He advised Phillies minor-leaguers at the team’s complex in Clearwater on the mental skills he credited for transporting himself from a major-league flameout to Cy Young Award winner. And he coached his son’s youth baseball teams, serving as a pitching coach to teenagers who learned of his exploits from watching videos they gleaned from the internet.
Halladay traveled in the summer of 2017 -- just three months before he died when his plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico -- with his son Ryan’s 12-and-under team for a tournament in Cooperstown, the small town in upstate New York that is home to baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Would Coach Halladay, the players wondered, be enshrined there one day?
“You know, it would obviously be a tremendous honor,” Halladay said in the spring of 2017. “I don’t try to think about it, honestly. You see guys get in that are deserving and you see guys that are possibly deserving that don’t get in. Boy, it’s a tough thing to figure out. But absolutely, I would love to be there. I think every player who ever played the game would love to be there. It would be a tremendous honor. I just hope for the best.”
Halladay is expected to be announced Tuesday evening as a member of the Hall of Fame’s 2019 class. This was his first year on the ballot, which was voted on by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Halladay, who was one of the elite pitchers of his generation, was an obvious choice.
He led the majors in complete games four times, pitched a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter in the same season, and registered a 2.97 ERA over a 10-year stretch that included two Cy Young awards and eight All-Star selections. His trademark cutter dominated both the National and American leagues. He had a career record of 203-105, and a 3.38 ERA.
Halladay, who would have turned 42 this May, spent the final four seasons of his career with the Phillies before retiring in December 2013. His Hall of Fame career was etched in Toronto, where he pitched for 12 seasons, and his Cooperstown plaque will likely be bronzed with a Blue Jays cap.
But some of his finest moments came in Philadelphia. He threw his perfect game and postseason no-hitter with the Phillies in 2010, the year he reached the playoffs for the first time. The Phillies traded for him in December 2009 and Halladay’s first two seasons were among the most dominant ever by a Phillies starter.
He was revered by his Phillies teammates for his work ethic as he was the first to report each morning to the ballpark during his first spring training. And he was praised for his leadership. When the team reacquired Cliff Lee before the 2011 season, the starting rotation had been dubbed “The Four Aces” with Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. But Halladay, Hamels said, made it clear that “we have five guys in this rotation and they’re all aces” and ensured that the team brought fifth starter Joe Blanton to the spring-training news conference.
Halladay, Hamels said, was the “greatest of that decade.” And on Tuesday night, Coach Halladay should receive the honor that his players hoped he would.
“You didn’t miss those moments when he pitched,” Hamels said on the night of Halladay’s death in November 2017. “I know baseball can be a long, grueling season, but when you had Roy Halladay on the mound you didn’t miss an inning. You didn’t miss a pitch. You were watching every moment. I know those are the moments when you’re playing this game and you look up into the stands and there are people there to watch you perform, and I was one of those people. Obviously, I had a closer seat and got to talk to him a little bit in between innings, but I was there to watch him perform. He raised my bar. He raised the game for me.”