COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — There’s so much talk of immortality on days like this.
These players are supposed to live forever in baseball’s greatest shrine. An election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame means being woven into the fabric of the sport: inexorably tied to century-old tradition through achievement and legacy.
But of course, these players are not actually immortal. Brandy Halladay, the late Roy Halladay’s wife, can attest to this all too well. And on Sunday, she had an emotionally impossible task: to speak on behalf of her husband, who died in a single-person plane crash in 2017.
In front of tens of thousands of people, she had to make sure not to cry too much. And she had to do her part to make her husband’s legacy eternal.
“This is not my speech to give,” she said after the standing ovation at the field at Clark Sports Center had quieted. “I’m going to do the best I can to say the things I believe Roy would say or would have wanted to say if he was here today.”
And so Brandy Halladay did, on a day when her husband, the former Phillies and Blue Jays starter, was inducted alongside Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines in front of a crowd of about 55,000 on a sweltering day.
Halladay thanked her husband’s teammates and both franchises — both of which, she said, agreed with her decision to leave the hat on his plaque blank — and spoke of a man who was private and dedicated and altruistic and imperfect.
Roy, she said, used to make huge, ridiculous bets with friends, just to lose on purpose and toss them a few dollars. He used to leave money in his pocket when his little sister helped with the laundry, and would tell her to keep it. “I did the same thing. I kept what I found,” Brandy said to laughter.
“I think Roy would want everyone to know that people are not perfect,” she said. “We are all imperfect and flawed in one way or another. We all struggle. But with hard work, humility and dedication, imperfect people can still have perfect moments. Roy was blessed in his life and his career to have some perfect moments, but I believe that they were only possible because of the man he strived to be, the teammate that he was and the people he was blessed to be on the field with.”
That, too, is part of this story. Four days ago, Sports Illustrated posted a story saying that Halladay had struggled with addiction to an anti-anxiety drug he had been prescribed. There were three drugs in his system when he died, according to the autopsy report released in January 2018.
After the ceremony was over, Brandy expanded on her comments: “These men who are up there that are doing these outstanding things, they’re still real people. They still have feelings, they still have families, they still struggle. And so many of the guys that I’ve known in my life, through baseball, they work so hard to hide that. I know Roy did. And Roy struggled a lot.”
But they triumph, too. Sometimes that’s easier to see, especially on days like Sunday, when the video screen showed incredible feats and career highlights.
That certainly was the case for Edgar Martinez, the Seattle designated hitter who waited 10 years to get here. The state of Washington, though, made it worth the wait. Mariners jerseys enveloped Cooperstown, almost competing with Yankees jerseys. Large Puerto Rico flags waved as he spoke, and cheers followed his every step.
There were times during the last 10 years, he said, that he didn’t think he’d get here.
“I am so fortunate to have two hearts, Puerto Rico and Seattle,” he said. To the Mariners fans, “the support you gave me over social media helped me to get here today . . . I am so glad I stayed with you until the end of my career. I love you, Seattle fans.”