Seven years ago this October, back when I was an impressionable 8th grader with plenty of time on my hands, I made the ultra-rare decision to watch a baseball game that didn’t involve my beloved Yankees. It was the first game of the National League Division Series between the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies, and on the mound for the Phillies was a gangly surgeon by the name of Roy “Doc” Halladay. I settled in on that brisk autumn afternoon with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate, and was mesmerized for the next three hours.
You see, Doc Halladay was no ordinary pitcher. Before Philly, he spent a decade dominating my Yankees with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was a perennial All-Star and Cy Young Award winner; he was, in the generation between Pedro Martinez and Justin Verlander, the sport’s best pitcher. The game I watched was Halladay’s first postseason start of his career, and he threw baseball’s second-ever playoff no-hitter. That afternoon, he was electric; with his fastball diving away from righties and grazing the inside corner for lefties. His looping curveball was as devastating as ever, and the Reds simply couldn’t handle his mix of precision and power. To this day, I remember Halladay’s no-hitter better than I can recall Yankees’ World Series games. He was that good that day, and he was that good his entire career.
I grew up playing baseball at a time when no other pitcher was as constantly emulated as Roy Halladay, for both mechanics and work ethic. Doc’s graceful windup was taught to Little Leaguers across the nation, and his conditioning regimen was fabled throughout the game at both the professional and amateur levels. When pitchers on my middle school baseball team complained about running the days after their starts, my coach retorted that Roy Halladay never missed a cardio session, and was known to run stairs in the hours after he pitched. Halladay was the ultimate professional, and as I wouldn’t learn until years later, a wonderful human being.
Roy Halladay was the epitome of class on and off the diamond; after throwing a perfect game in May of 2010, he got each of his teammates an expensive watch with the inscription, “We did it together.” Constantly throughout his career, he was nominated for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award for his philanthropic work, including inviting seriously ill children into “Doc’s Box” for Blue Jays games. He helped feed malnourished Philadelphians through his “Phans Feeding Families” program, and his Isaac Foundation aided patients with rare diseases.
Doc died on Tuesday at the age of 40 in a tragic plane crash. He leaves behind his wife and two boys. Roy Halladay the pitcher will soon be elected into Baseball Hall of Fame. Roy Halladay the man leaves a legacy of athletic and personal excellence. Doc’s no-hitter will always live on in my memory; but more importantly, his character and philanthropy will never be forgotten by those whose lives he touched.
Christopher Ioannou is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.