It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
So many people were supposed to have him for years to come, his wife and two kids first and foremost. He was supposed to take some time away and then show up at Spring Training each year, or maybe come on as a low level coach and work his way up if the itch needed scratching. He was supposed to impart how to throw that devastating cutter to young pitchers, how to work the ball in and around and force weak contact, but also how to up and destroy a batter if the game called for it. He was supposed to go to the Hall of Fame, an eight-time All-Star with two Cy Youngs to his name, and take a little piece of Philadelphia in with him.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this, not in a plane crash on a November afternoon, but it did.
Roy Halladay was only with us for a couple of his best years but they were the right years, important years to us that opened our championship window a bit wider in a town with so little fresh air. He was more than just a guy who took the ball every five days. He was Doc Halladay, the best pitcher in either league, and he was ours. He was a win if you could scrape two runs together. He was raw, unadulterated confidence for every Phillies fan: you knew the Fightins were winning when he went, and when he went, it was mandatory viewing. You didn’t dare watch anything else or you could miss something. Just him taking the hill was a thing. Even people he played against couldn’t help but watch and admire him.
Roy did it with a work ethic that let him fit right in this blue-collar town, too. He came to work early. He gave everything he had. He left late. He was an example to his other co-workers, a set of actions and beliefs that said “if you do this, you will be better”. He was the answer for young pitchers wondering what they had to do to be successful; he was Chase Utley for pitchers, essentially (a fact not lost on Utley). He was the kind of guy organizations would keep around even after they’ve lost a little bit because they’re such good clubhouse guys (also like Utley now) even though Doc couldn’t bear to stay with the team like that, choosing to retire instead. He had a fire in his belly too, the kind that led him to argue with Charlie Manuel when Chuck would come out to possibly remove him, and sometimes he’d win and stay in, too. He was one of us.
We’ve had better pitchers (Steve Carlton). We’ve had flashier pitchers (Cliff Lee). But there will always only be one Roy Halladay.
So many people harken back to his perfect game in Miami, or his post-season no-hitter in 2010 against the Reds, but for me, Roy’s signature performance was in Game 5 of the 2010 NLCS. The two-time reigning NL Champion Phillies were down 3-1 and facing elimination against the even-year Giants who would eventually win the World Series. Halladay threw 108 pitches in six innings of two-run ball on sheer guts and moxie (it was revealed after the game that he was basically pitching on one leg due to a pulled groin) and the Phillies won 4-2 and extended the series. That was just Doc being Doc. He did what was necessary to win.
We were truly blessed to watch him in red pinstripes. It’ll be hard to get used to him being gone. Thanks for the memories, Doc.