Halladay remembered as ‘awe-striking,’ ‘beautiful’
Roy (Doc) Halladay’s family, friends and former teammates spoke of his compassion, his humour, his work ethic, his dedication, even his fearlessness.
Most of all, they spoke of his humanity, how he was an even better person than 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 plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico 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.”
Other than Brandy and his father Roy Halladay Jr., no one spoke more lovingly than former Toronto Blue Jays teammate Chris Carpenter, who recalled the time the pair of pitchers went fishing in the jungles of Brazil.
“One of the days we went fishing, it was like 100 degrees out and he wanted to jump into the Amazon river. Remember, we’re in 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?’”
“Before I knew it, Doc belly flopped into that coffee-coloured water. He proceeded to backstroke around,” added Carpenter, who jumped in after him before they both climbed out and hoisted a beer to celebrate.
A native of Denver, he was the Jays’ first selection in the 1995 draft and pitched for Toronto from 1998 to 2008 and for Philadelphia from 2009 to 2013, finishing with a 203-105 record.
He threw a perfect game in 2010, and that fall pitched the second post-season no-hitter in big league history. He was an eight-time all-star.
The stories on Tuesday flowed like the pace of the game when Halladay pitched. It was a credit to the man that such a large representation from his two former clubs were present.
The Toronto family at the 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 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 and J.A. Happ.
Halladay’s Philadelphia family at the service included his former manager Charlie Manuel and teammates Cole Hamels and Chase Utley.
Poulis became close to Halladay during the pitcher’s time with the Jays, as he constantly worked to keep the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who had a legendary work ethic, healthy.
“On the days the Doc pitched, we had a saying between us. When I was done working on him, I would say, ‘Doc, have a good one,’ before he left the training room to warm up,” said Poulis, adding that Halladay wouldn’t head to the field unless Poulis said the words. “He would remain true to that every time he pitched. I look around at Roy’s family, friends, teammates and staff today and I see sadness in their eyes that they will never see Roy again. But the memories of his life and the passion of how he lived and how many people’s lives he touched will live on forever.
“So, I say in closing, ‘Doc, have a good one.’ ”
A pair of pictures adorned the infield during the memorial, just behind the pitching mound, one of Halladay in a Phillies uniform and another in the blue and white of the Jays, with the numbers he wore with both teams — 34 and 32 — staged in a floral arrangement.
When the two-hour celebration ended, Brandy Halladay and sons Braden and Ryan released butterflies into the air from the mound. It seemed like the butterflies didn’t want to escape their captivity, just like people at the service didn’t want to leave their chairs after.