As sure as Cole Hamels will wake up in the morning, brush his teeth, and eat breakfast with his children, he also will think about May 29, 2010. It’s part of his daily routine, regular as clockwork.
Or maybe it’s watchwork, as in the Baume & Mercier timepiece that sits in a winder in his house.
Hamels received the Swiss watch as a gift from Roy Halladay. The late Phillies ace bought 60 of them for $2,800 apiece and gave them to teammates, coaches, executives, trainers, clubhouse staff, public relations officials, even batboys to commemorate the Saturday night in Miami when he threw the 20th perfect game in major-league history.
“Oh man, that was special,” Hamels said by phone. “Just to create a memory for all of us. I look at it every day, truly.”
Ten years later, they all still remember.
Two months into his first season with the Phillies, Halladay was at the peak of his Hall of Fame powers. But he also got knocked around by the Boston Red Sox in his previous start, prompting questions about whether the Phillies were overusing him. To that point, “Doc” had thrown at least 110 pitches in six of his 10 starts.
RICH DUBEE, pitching coach: We looked more at stress situations, and of course, Roy didn’t have a lot of stress situations. As a veteran guy who’d been through the wars, you leaned on him and entrusted him to tell us how he felt. He always prepared for nine innings; he prepared for 115 pitches, 120 if he had to go there. We weren’t concerned at all.
RUBEN AMARO JR., general manager: Listen, there’s no secret: Charlie Manuel likes to have his best players on the field at all times. I believed the manager manages the team. The GM oversees the manager, but he doesn’t manage the team. My job was to make suggestions. One of the things that I had a little bit of an issue with was, does he need to still be pitching in the eighth inning or ninth inning when we have a seven- or six-run lead? We were in “win-now” mode. I get it. I understood why Charlie would operate that way. But to say we didn’t talk about it, I’d be lying.
TOM McCARTHY, play-by-play announcer: I had a note written on my scorecard — “1,105 pitches, fourth-most in Major League Baseball at that point.” But I also have a quote from Roy that said, "That didn’t affect me. It all starts with not making good pitches.”
COLE HAMELS, pitcher: I can’t remember that specific week. He might have made an adjustment [to his delivery] with Jamie Moyer. But I do remember after he didn’t win a game that he was disappointed in himself for letting down his team. He was really hard on himself in that aspect. But he knew what it took to get back. He had this incredible workout regimen and all the video and the studying. He knew how to turn the page better than most, but it took him practice to get there.
McCARTHY: I remember being excited about the matchup. [Marlins starter] Josh Johnson was a young pup, but he had great stuff. At that point, we thought he was going to be a perennial Cy Young candidate. I also remember thinking that every time Doc pitched, you thought something cool could happen.
‘An absolute animal’
Never mind that Halladay had been in the big leagues more than 10 years. Or that he was a six-time All-Star and a Cy Young Award winner in the American League. Few Marlins hitters had experience against him. They got a quick orientation.
BRETT HAYES, Marlins catcher: When he came over to Philly, it was almost like [Zack] Greinke getting out of Kansas City. Everyone knew he was good, but no one really knew how good he was until he got to Philadelphia. You could see right away how competitive he was. He was an absolute animal out on the mound. We didn’t realize what we were getting ourselves into.
WES HELMS, Marlins infielder: We were going to be aggressive early because he was kind of like [Greg] Maddux where he attacked the zone. He didn’t walk a lot of guys, so we said, let’s attack him early and put some balls in play and find some holes. Of course it didn’t work.
DUBEE: It’s hard to put a negative on a perfect game, but I actually thought his command wasn’t up to par for Roy Halladay. He had six or seven three-ball counts [two in the first inning, against Chris Coghlan and Hanley Ramirez, both of whom balked at strike calls], which was unusually high for him. Maybe it was the heat. He was a big-time sweater and that made the grip a little difficult at times. But I don’t think he was particularly sharp with his command.
HELMS: I do remember [home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro] was opening the zone up a little bit on the outer half, and there was a few calls that were chirped about in our dugout. But he just fell into his strike zone and was consistent with it.
HAYES: [DiMuro] was giving quite the plate, let me tell you. I saw it firsthand with Josh Johnson, as well. But Roy never missed a spot, and when he knew he could expand, he exploited it.
DUBEE: I don’t think it was an overly wide strike zone. It was a consistent strike zone. When you’ve got two horses on the mound like Johnson and Halladay were, pitchers knew where they could go and hitters eventually knew it was going to be called a strike.
HAMELS: Doc had a way of psyching out the other team and almost making the team quit before the game even started just because you don’t want to go play against Doc Halladay. You want a day off just because he could mess you up for a week.
Since 1876, 302 no-hitters — including 23 perfect games, two by Phillies pitchers (Jim Bunning in 1964 and Halladay) — have been thrown in Major League Baseball. An outstanding defensive play usually accompanies the masterful pitching performance. Think of DeWayne Wise’s leaping catch to rob a home run in Mark Buehrle’s 2009 perfect game.
Halladay needed no such help.
CHASE UTLEY, second baseman: You look back at other no-hitters and there’s always some crazy play that someone made to keep it intact. I don’t recall many of those plays during that game. It just goes to show how dominant he was. It’s not like we saved him from having a hit against him. It was all him.
HAYES: He was extremely deceptive. He had that very unique delivery. At the same time, he had five, six pitches and he could hit any spot any given time. You felt like you were in the middle of a video game, but you didn’t have the controller. It’s like it was a one-man show.
HELMS: It was a night of weak contact, for sure. There was not a lot of squared-up balls for a big-league ballgame.
FREDI GONZALEZ, Marlins manager: I think of how well Josh Johnson pitched. He gave up an unearned run and that was it. I think one of the outfielders made an error [Cameron Maybin misjudged Utley’s fly ball]. But J.J. pitched great, our bullpen held, and with it being a 1-0 game, until the last out was made I felt like we were going to get a hit.
McCARTHY: Jimmy [Rollins] wasn’t there [because of a calf strain]. [Wilson] Valdez was at shortstop and he had a great game. He scored the only run, but he also made a couple really good plays. I have a 6-3 circled in the sixth inning against Cameron Maybin. [Valdez] made a play in the hole and got him by a step.
AMARO: Castro made a hell of a play in the eighth.
JUAN CASTRO, third baseman: That was a bullet that Jorge [Cantu] hit. All I remember is I dove for it and the ball ended up in my glove. After the game, Cantu and myself, we went to get something to eat. He was saying that was the key out. Not because he hit it, but he said it was probably one of the most difficult plays in the whole game. I think that was probably the one that had the most chance to be a hit.
HELMS: Fourth or fifth inning, you’re sitting back going, “We ain’t got a hit, man.” But it’s Roy Halladay. It happens a lot that he don’t give up a hit until the sixth or seventh inning. But now you start getting into the seventh, eighth inning and you’re like, “Whoa.” And he was spotting every pitch. You start sensing, “Hey, there’s a real chance we’re going to get no-hit here.”
HAYES: Halfway through the second time through the lineup, it’s like, let’s start blurting out the obvious that he’s got a no-hitter or say ridiculous things in the dugout to get the guys fired up. But it didn’t matter what we did. He was special that night.
AMARO: My half-brother decided he was going to come to the game. I got him scouts’ seats, so he’s sitting right behind home plate. Around the third inning or so, I go down there and sit with him, and we’re just kibitzing, BS’ing, and it rolls around to like the fifth inning. I look up and go, “[Shoot], there’s no hits.” I started tracing back and thinking about whether there were any errors. No errors. I don’t think he’s walked anybody. From literally the sixth inning to the last pitch, we did not say one word to each other — and we both talk a lot. I think we sat there in almost silence. Didn’t say a frickin’ word.
RYAN HOWARD, first baseman: Maybe in like the sixth inning, I turned around and saw all the zeroes on the scoreboard, and I was like, ‘Uh-oh, probably shouldn’t have done that.’ You’re always into the game, but now there’s that little extra bit of adrenaline that kicks in and you’re trying to go all-out for every play.
DUBEE: Roy usually picked out a seat in the dugout or down the tunnel where he had his towels and water. Guys probably avoided him a little more, but generally nobody spoke to him during the game anyway. Guys didn’t get in that area. Might pat him on the leg or something going by, but that was about it.
HAMELS: We did not want to go anywhere near him, not because of the jinxing thing but that was what we never did anyway.
Three outs to go
In the TV booth, McCarthy began counting the outs. “Roy Halladay has faced 18 batters. He has retired all 18,” he said after the sixth inning and repeated the refrain at the 21- and 24-batter marks. He even dared to say “no-hitter” after Halladay froze Ramirez with a 92-mph fastball on the inside corner to end the seventh.
Two words that McCarthy wouldn’t utter: “perfect game.”
McCARTHY: I don’t subscribe to the jinx part of it. I didn’t say “perfect game” until the end, but that wasn’t designed. We had so much going on. Wheels [Chris Wheeler] and I are talking about the Jim Bunning perfect game and trying to get everything in. But I remember I started shaking at the end of the eighth inning. Cody Ross was such a pain in the neck that I’m like, ‘Oh, he’s going to break it.’ But when he popped up, there was this adrenaline rush that I had never, ever felt before.
AMARO: There were so many things going through my head. I’m thinking, “Who’s going to be pinch-hitting in the ninth? Oh my god, [ex-Phillies] Wes Helms or [Ronnie] Paulino is going to break this friggin’ thing up, and I’m going to be so [ticked].”
McCARTHY: [Center fielder Shane] Victorino was sneaky good in that game. There was a ball that [Dan] Uggla hit in the fifth where he had to go back. And the [Mike] Lamb one [to open the ninth inning], off the bat I was like, “Oh no.”
AMARO: Shane had to go get it and made a good play on it. Another ballpark, our ballpark, that would’ve been a homer.
HELMS: As a pinch-hitter I didn’t like to be overly aggressive and get myself out on the first or second pitch. But his ball was just moving all over the place. It was shooting left, shooting right. It’s almost like you have to sit in a zone and swing, and if it hits your barrel it hits your barrel. I almost went to a two-strike approach. To go into an at-bat off the bench off Roy in a one-run game and say, ‘I can tie this with one swing,’ more than likely you’re not going to be successful. Of course, he struck me out, and you just go back to the dugout saying, “This guy tonight is in a league of his own.”
CASTRO: I don’t remember getting nervous playing defense. But at that moment, two outs, I’m looking to the scoreboard and I see all the zeroes — no runs, no hits, no errors. A few negative thoughts came in my mind like, “Don’t screw it up. Don’t make a mistake.” I had to just be like, “Come on. I need to change my mentality.” And I just started thinking, “Hit the ball to me. I want it.” And it happened.
AMARO: When [Paulino] hit the ball, I went, “Oh my God, it’s going to get in the hole.” And then Castro made a really, really nice play on it.
CASTRO: That year I didn’t play much third base. [It was his first start of the season at the position.] But [Placido] Polanco wasn’t feeling good that day. That’s why I was in the lineup. I knew the hitter was Paulino and I knew he wasn’t a fast runner. When the ball got hit to my left, I knew it wasn’t an easy play. But I made sure I got the ball and then I turned and gave Ryan Howard a good throw.
McCARTHY: The only thing I knew I wanted to say was how many perfect games there were in baseball history and how many there were in Phillies history. That’s all. I wanted to call it not like I was on radio but I wanted to be descriptive. Normally if I call a play like that I might say, “Ground ball to third. Clean throw to first.” It’s really basic. But I got, “Hit toward third. Castro has it. Spins, fires.” I wanted to be right, I wanted to be exact, and I wanted to give Doc the exuberance, the excitement, the information that it deserved.
Everyone recognized the Halladay stare. Steely. Stoic. Stone-cold.
Now, at last, Halladay flashed a smile.
As Castro’s throw settled in Howard’s mitt, Halladay pumped his right fist into his glove, opened his arms, and hugged onrushing catcher Carlos Ruiz. (Multiple attempts to reach Ruiz for this story were unsuccessful.) The rest of the Phillies joined them in front of the mound. As Gary Matthews interviewed Halladay on the field, the lights went out and Luis Enrique began his postgame concert. But the celebration continued in the visitors’ clubhouse.
HAMELS: The only disappointing factor in that whole game was that he didn’t do it in front of a sold-out stadium in a big, huge baseball market. Because perfection is so difficult. You want people to be able to see this.
HOWARD: I kept trying to get his attention because I wanted to give him the ball. I kind of tapped him on the chest a few times. I think I finally just stuck the ball in his glove. I didn’t want to lose it.
UTLEY: Seeing how excited he was and finally the smile on his face after a lot of stare-downs to the opposing team, that’s what I remember. You saw that great, big smile that he had.
DUBEE: Get in the clubhouse and everyone’s clapping and screaming. Doc walks in, puts his glove down, his hat down, and everybody wants a speech. The first thing that comes out of his mouth is, “Chooch is the man.” He just deflected all the credit to Carlos [Ruiz].
HAMELS: Doc didn’t know how to handle it. That’s the funniest part. You pitch toward it, you work toward it, and when you finally have those moments, you don’t know how to handle it because it’s such a far reach to understand. You’re just in shock. I mean, literally, you’re in shock.
AMARO: After the game, Chooch came to me and he said, “Que clase de caballo!” This guy is a horse! He said he’s a horse because he threw a couple of changeups [on the last two pitches] to Paulino. Roy only shook him two or three times the whole game. But he couldn’t believe that Roy would do that. He said, “This guy has no fear.”
FRAN PERSON, aide to Vice President/Phillies fan Joe Biden: I was texting back and forth with VP Biden while he was watching the end of the game, and he immediately wanted to congratulate Roy Halladay. Kevin Gregg worked in media relations with the Phillies; K.G. and I went to high school at Episcopal Academy together. It was easy to coordinate getting VP Biden the right number to connect with Roy Halladay postgame in the clubhouse.
CASTRO: It wasn’t my game. It was Roy Halladay’s game. But for me to be able to be part of that perfect game, I’m blessed for God to put me in that situation that day.
GONZALEZ: The next day was a day game. I get to the ballpark around 9 o’clock in the morning. My office was right next to the weight room. I hear music, so I go to open my door, see who’s in there. Doc’s in there, working out already. He just finished a perfect game the night before, and he’s in there pounding out whatever his routine was. I asked if he could sign the lineup card for me, and he said yes.
AMARO: He was my white whale. When I became GM, I talked to Dave Montgomery and said if I had a chance to get one player in all of baseball, it would be Roy Halladay. But I didn’t know until he was with our club about his accountability and desire to win. I saw [the game] again two or three weeks ago. First time I’d watched it all the way through. And yes, it brought tears to my eyes.
The boxes were waiting at every locker. As the Phillies came in after batting practice on Aug. 24, 2010, they found a silver watch engraved on the back with their name, the date of the perfect game, and the line score. The inscription on the front of the box: “We did it together. Thanks, Roy Halladay.”
AMARO: They’re sweet, man. They’re expensive and sweet. Perfect example of what he was about. He believed in his heart of hearts that he doesn’t accomplish these things without his teammates.
UTLEY: It’s something that you would never expect a teammate to give you, let alone the entire team. I wear it occasionally, but I don’t want to muck it up.
CASTRO: I was with the Dodgers when that happened. After the season, I was at home and the travel secretary sent the watch to my house. The gesture from Roy, it was amazing.
DUBEE: It was a great thank-you. He didn’t have to do it because everybody respected him so much anyways. This was just over the top. Every day I wear it. It just gives me a reminder of Doc and the years we had there in Philly.
HAMELS: That really epitomized him as a teammate. He didn’t want the spotlight. He wanted everybody to soak it in. I don’t wear it. I like keeping it nice and fresh and clean. Every morning I wake up I pass it, and I think of Doc.