New York, NY – On Sunday, the late Roy Halladay will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame to be enshrined with the class of 2019 at 25 Main Street in Cooperstown, NY.
In becoming the first player posthumously elected by the Baseball Writer’s Association of American since Roberto Clemente in 1973, he will be the only one of six to not share the story of his career before the large crowd that listens patiently in the field at the Clark Sports Center.
The Denver-born Halladay was only 40-years-old when he perished on November 7, 2017, when his amphibious plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.
By that point, he was already four years retired and his 16-year career was all the campaigning he’d need. It was an easy decision for voters. His election, along with that of Mariano Rivera, brings the total of first-year BBWAA inductees to 56 in a hall containing plaques for 329 members total.
In addition to Rivera, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Harold Baines and Lee Smith, Halladay is just the sixth player elected after his death by the BBWAA by standard election procedures, joining Christy Mathewson (1936), Willie Keeler (1939), Herb Pennock (1948), Harry Heilmann (1952) and Rabbit Maranville (1954). What separates Halladay is that none of those players were elected in his first year of eligibility.
With crowds estimated near 50,000, one of the largest to ever descend upon the idyllic town in upstate New York nestled amid rolling hills at the southern tip of Otsego Lake, the town named after author James Fenimore Cooper will toast the eight-time All-Star as his wife, Brandy, delivers his induction speech.
Jim Thome, member of the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2018, spoke about his former teammate and longtime rival before the Play Ball fundraiser and skills clinic at the Clark Sports Center on Friday.
“I love him,” Thome shared. “Doc was probably the hardest working teammate that I’ve ever seen. I spent a very short amount of time with him, but I competed against him for years. He was special. This guy loved to work. He loved being on the mound. He wanted to be in big moments and that’s pretty special.”
Before linking up with Halladay in Philadelphia for the first half of 2012, Thome was already well aware of Doc from the tales shared by his former hitting coach and manager in Cleveland, Charlie Manuel.
“I know Charlie had him there in Philadelphia and the same thing you hear, the stories of Charlie talking about him. There wasn’t a day where he wasn’t prepared and how his work ethic was on the field. His preparation getting to Spring Training at four in the morning and how he went about his business was so impressive,” said the man with 612 career home runs, good for eighth-most all-time.
Long before the legend and Cy Young Award winner in both leagues (2003 and 2010) aimed to reach the pinnacle of professional baseball, he was a prep player at Arvada West High School.
Phil Ross, a local high school and collegiate umpire, shared his memorable first encounter with a young Roy.
“I was a college and high school umpire when he played at Colorado’s Arvada West High from 1993-95,” Ross said. “I recall the first time I did a Wildcats game when he was a sophomore, playing first base that day. In retrospect, not only was he the best player whom I officiated in a two-decade umpiring career but also the most polite. That day, I told Roy’s head coach, Jim Capra, ‘Your first baseman is the politest kid I’ve ever had — ‘yes, sir; no, sir; please; thank you.'”
“The following season, I was behind the plate when Roy pitched a no-hitter against A-West’s arch-rivals, the Arvada High Reds. I didn’t realize it at the time as I walked toward the parking lot afterward with my umpiring partner, but an excited man with a scorebook exclaimed, ‘Do you know you just called a no-hitter?’ When I saw the line score in the next day’s Sports Section,” added the author of the Blue Hombre book series, “I felt good.”
The absence of Halladay in Cooperstown will be looming large as the pantheon of baseball greats gets larger by one more kid from Colorado, where he joins Rich “Goose” Gossage as the only players from the Centennial State to find a home there.
His spirit will be at peace in the Baseball Hall of Fame, surrounded by hundreds in his fraternity and millions more that love the sport and the heroes that played the game.