Roy Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner admired as much for his off-the-field persona as his Hall of Fame pitching ability, died Tuesday when the private plane he was piloting crashed off the Florida coast in the Gulf of Mexico.
A fearsome competitor on the mound, Halladay, 40, earned universal appreciation within the sport, from teammates and opponents alike. He was one of 23 pitchers to throw a perfect game, and joined the Yankees’ Don Larsen as the only two to fire a no-hitter in the postseason.
Halladay did it for the Phillies in his playoff debut, on Oct. 6, 2010, and came within a fifth-inning walk to the Reds’ Jay Bruce of also being perfect that remarkable evening at Citizens Bank Park. The baseball world was in shock Tuesday after learning of Halladay’s fatal accident, which came only four years after his retirement from the Phillies, his 16-year career prematurely ended by his decision to avoid back surgery.
“We are numb over the very tragic news about Roy Halladay’s untimely death,” the Phillies said in a statement. “There are no words to describe the sadness that the entire Phillies family is feeling over the loss of one of the most respected human beings to ever play the game.”
Halladay recently purchased the A5 ICON, a two-seat, single-engine amphibious plane capable of landing on water, and his Twitter feed was filled with photographs of him flying the aircraft. According to the Pasco County (Fla.) Police Department, the plane went down in the water, about a quarter-mile offshore, and Halladay died in the crash. There was no one else traveling with him.
Halladay’s accident is the latest in a number of plane crashes that have claimed the lives of prominent baseball players. The Pirates’ Roberto Clemente perished while on a relief mission to Nicaragua on New Year’s Eve in 1972, the Yankees’ Thurman Munson crashed while piloting his own plane near his Ohio home, and another Yankee, Cory Lidle, died when his plane collided with a Manhattan apartment building in 2006.
“Our hearts are broken,” said Tony Clark, the union’s executive director and a former player. “Roy Halladay was not just one of the greatest competitors, but was also among the best men in our generation of players.
“Our paths crossed many times during our careers, and I can tell you he was among the toughest pitchers I ever faced. But while he never gave in on the mound, he was known in both leagues as an outstanding teammate, a guy who would go out of his way to help other players.”
Halladay, nicknamed “Doc,” was a throwback. As baseball gradually moved to de-emphasize the starting pitcher, he still took pride in going the distance, with 67 complete games, including 20 shutouts. An eight-time All-Star, Halladay also was a three-time 20-game winner, twice during his 12-year stint in Toronto. Halladay will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2019.
“The Blue Jays organization is overcome by grief with the tragic loss of one of the franchise’s greatest and most respected players, but even better human being,” the team said in a statement. “It is impossible to express what he has meant to this franchise, the city and its fans.”
In addition to his impact on baseball, Halladay left a lasting imprint on his Florida community, with the Pasco County Police struggling both to investigate the crash and mourn a friend.
“He was one in a million,” Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco told The Associated Press. “It is a true loss for us.”
Nick Fanti, the former Hauppauge High School pitching standout, fondly remembered Halladay after having him as an instructor at the Phillies’ camp in spring training.
“I was fortunate enough to work with Roy Halladay and can honestly say I’m not only a better baseball player, but a better person off the field for it,” Fanti tweeted. “To be able to listen to him talk about his process and how he played the game was an honor. Truly a professional and a legend and will be missed.”
Halladay is survived by his wife, Brandy, and two sons, Ryan and Braden.
Former and current players flocked to Twitter to express their condolences, with Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy summing up a generation’s feelings.
“Roy Halladay was your favorite player’s favorite player,” McCarthy tweeted. “A true ace and a wonderful person. Heartbroken for those who knew him best.”
Roy Halladay file
Age: 40 (Born May 14, 1977)
MLB debut: Sept. 20, 1998 (Toronto)
Last game: Sept. 23, 2013 (Philadelphia)
Career stats: 203-105 W-L, 3.38 ERA, 2,117 strikeouts
All-Star: 8 times (2002, ’03, ’05, ’06, ’08-11)
Cy Young Awards: 2 (2003, ’10)
20-game winner: 3 (2003, ’08, ’10)
No-hitter: Oct. 6, 2010, vs. Cincinnati (NLDS)
Perfect game: May 29, 2010, vs. Florida
THE BASEBALL COMMUNITY MOURNS
“Words cannot describe what it feels like to lose a friend like Roy. I’m honored to have had the chance to compete with you.”
— Chase Utley
“To the world, Roy was one of the best pitchers in baseball, but to me, he was an inspiration, a great mentor, teammate, and most importantly, a friend.”
— Cole Hamels
“Roy Halladay was your favorite player’s favorite player. A true ace and a wonderful person. Heartbroken for those who knew him best.”
— Brandon McCarthy
“I wanted to be Roy Halladay. I’m heartbroken, rest easy Doc.”
— Dan Haren
“We lost a great ballplayer but an even better human being.”
— Ryan Howard