Memorial for late pitching great Roy Halladay speaks of his impact in life
CLEARWATER, Fla. — Roy ‘Doc’ Halladay’s family, friends and former teammates spoke of his compassion, his humour, his work ethic, his dedication, even his fearlessness.
But most of all, they spoke of his humanity, how he was an even better person than he was a pitcher. That aspect of Halladay’s personality has shone brightly in the days since the all-star pitcher’s sudden death last week — and it did again on Tuesday.
At the celebration of Halladay’s life at Spectrum Field — the spring training ballpark for the Philadelphia Phillies — tears and laughter mixed, as people close to the former ace spoke emotionally about the man they lost on Nov. 7 when his ICON A5 amphibious plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Florida. He was 40.
“He was awe-striking. He was beautiful inside and out,” Halladay’s wife Brandy said through tears as she addressed the large gathering. “When he spoke, people listened. And I really hope I can find the right words to be able express how I’m feeling and to honour the man I’m still lucky enough to call my husband.”
Along with Brandy and his father, Roy Halladay Jr., no one spoke more lovingly than ex-Jays teammate Chris Carpenter, who recalled the time the pair of pitchers went fishing in the jungles of Brazil. The adventure that spoke volumes about Halladay’s personality.
“One of the days we went fishing, it was like 100 (F) degrees out and he wanted to jump into the Amazon river. Remember, we’re the jungle,” Carpenter said. “The water is as clear as a cup of coffee and we’ve been catching piranhas all day. I looked at him and said, ‘You’re freaking nuts.’ He said, ‘I know, but we can say we swam in the Amazon River and who do we know that can say that?’”
The Toronto family at the memorial included GMs past and present: Pat Gillick, J.P. Ricciardi, Alex Anthopoulos and Ross Atkins. Past and current Jays presidents Paul Godfrey and Mark Shapiro were also on hand, along with media guru Jay Stenhouse, ex-manager Cito Gaston, head athletic trainer George Poulis, and former teammates Carpenter, Jose Bautista, Aaron Hill, Frank Thomas, John McDonald, Lyle Overbay, Scott Rolen, B.J. Ryan, Josh Towers, Orlando Hudson, Jason Frasor, J.A. Happ, Scott Rolen and Ernie Whitt.
Phillies owner John Middleton spoke of Halladay’s charity work, a sentiment echoed by Godfrey, who served as Jays president/CEO from 2000 to 2008.
“We had him in front of us for too short a period of time, a great human being before an outstanding baseball player,” Godfrey said. “I don’t think there was a dry eye in the stadium. The emotions I saw in here today were overwhelming.”
Proudly, Godfrey keeps a Jays jersey signed by Halladay hanging in his office in the Postmedia building on Bloor Street in Toronto.
“I have people come in all the time and offer me thousands of dollars for it,” Godfrey said. “But I’d never give it up. It’s a priceless memento with great personal value to me.”