“The late Roy Halladay.” It’s going to take an awfully long time before those words don’t feel so wrong, so heart-wrenching, and so surreal.
On Tuesday afternoon the Blue Jays, Phillies, their fans, and MLB, lost an icon and legend—words that, as big and impressive as they are, don’t even truly capture what the man called “Doc” really meant to the baseball world.
It’s easy to get hyperbolic when someone dies, especially tragically, and especially when it happens when they’re much too young, as the 40-year-old Halladay was. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. Roy Halladay was a giant, hiding in plain sight.
Here in Toronto, in the late-2000s, when he was the best pitcher in baseball, and damn near the only thing worth watching on a series of mediocre teams, his greatness was so evident that it became a running joke. For example, my brilliant friend, Drew Fairservice, wrote in a 2008 post at his old site, Ghostrunner on First, a comically outsized portrait of “a day in the existence of Roy Halladay,” in which Halladay’s “ravenous appetite for the flesh of opponents is offset by his laser-like execution of a precise, predetermined strategy and his unfailing humility. Basically, he’s all things to all men.” The jokes all land absolutely perfectly because they’re underpinned by so much truth.