SO LONG, DOC
‘Awe-striking’ Halladay remembered fondly by family, friends
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 jun- gle,” 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 eventually jumped in after him, before they both climbed out and hoisted a beer to celebrate.
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, the Jays and Phillies, were present.
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, exmanager 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.
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 life’s 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 afterwards.
Phillies owner John Middleton spoke of Halladay’s charity work, including Doc’s Box at the Rogers Centre where he would invite kids being treated at Toronto’s Sickkids hospital and their families to watch games in comfort, as well as the random acts of kindness he performed throughout his MLB career.
It’s 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 momento with great personal value to me.”
Halladay’s numbers spoke of greatness.
Brandy Halladay becomes emotional as she talks about her late husband, Roy Halladay, during a public memorial service in Clearwater, Fla., yesterday, Inset, for Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey attended the funeral to honour the former pitcher.