There have been a number of sporting heroes in this city across all sports. There were of course some Maple Leaf greats such as Johnny Bower, David Keon, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark. The Raptors had Vince Carter, then not, then back again. Then of course, there is baseball with Roberto Alomar, Dave Stieb and Joe Carter. They all have special places in the hearts of the 416 faithful. Roy Halladay was also a hero of this city, but Doc was different.
Statement from the Blue Jays organization on the tragic passing of Roy Halladay: pic.twitter.com/Ih8D0RQE9p
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) November 7, 2017
It was saddening to hear (or read I should say) that he passed away in a plane crash off the coast of Florida. He was 40, leaving behind his wife and two sons. Baseball may have lost one of the greatest pitchers of this millennia, but the world lost more. Toronto lost more. During his span hear in Toronto he had over a decade of greatness while the team, not so much. They were never in it always finishing 10+ games out of first. To say he was the greatest Toronto Blue Jay of that time wouldn’t just be an understatement, it won’t come close to understanding the true player/fan relationship that was shared. The fans loved Halladay more than they did the Blue Jays themselves.
When other heros left this city they left a variety of emotions. Some of them were booed because it felt they quit on the team (Vince Carter) and it took years for fans to quiet down and welcome him back. Some heros were booed because they didn’t leave (Mats Sundin) as fans felt building for the future was better for the team. Somehow his wanting to stay interfered with those plans. Some were given a show of respect as Jose Bautista received a standing ovation just a few weeks ago. But Halladay was different. The day he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies fans weren’t upset that he was leaving, they weren’t excited about what was coming back in return, instead it was more relief because maybe now he would get a chance to win play and win in the World Series, something the Blue Jays were far from doing. Fans were cheering not because it was good for the Blue Jays or for baseball or even for themselves. We were happy for Roy Halladay. We wanted him to win.
Fast forward to May 29th, 2010 when Doc pitches a perfect game against the Florida Marlins. Every Blue Jay fan across Canada was cheering for Doc that day and excuse our vanity, but we felt proud of him as he was still “our boy” even though the Denver native was never Canadian to begin with. He worked us up into a frenzy again not even six months later when he became only the second pitcher in history to throw a no-hitter in a playoff game. It was his first ever playoff game. Unfortunately he did not get a World Series ring but it was easy to guess who was going to win his second Cy Young Award that year. Oh, and you are correct in thinking that Toronto fans took some pride in that too. We were beaming.
More important than all of his successes, and there were many, the quality that made Halladay’s heroics shine that much brighter was how humble he was in achieving them. He never shied away from the work it took to become great. He pitched 67 complete games. That speaks to his endurance, his competitiveness and that alone tells you he was a fighter who never quit. Someone who gave it his all because, well, that’s the only way he knew how to play. That attitude actually makes it easier for us to understand why he felt it wasn’t anything of note. He was the most ordinary of the extraordinary heroes that ever graced our city and that made him special. For example, there is a picture floating around of a young Halladay changing his son’s diaper in the Jays locker room. Or the 60 watches he had purchased in honour of his perfect game that he gave to his Philly teammates and organization. It was engraved with, “We did it together. Thanks, Roy Halladay.” With the utmost sincerity, he seemed to make the people around him feel like they were superstars just like he was, but there was no one in his league. No one.
So if you were not in Toronto or Canada during the last 15 years; if you didn’t follow baseball or for some strange reason hibernated during the summer instead of the winter, you may not have heard who Roy Halladay was or what he meant. All you really need to know is this…
Roy Halladay was loved by many people and for all the right reasons too.
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