On Tuesday, Major League Baseball and its personalities mourned the passing of one of the greatest starting pitchers in the sport’s history, two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay. Halladay was an eight-time All-Star in his time with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Halladay passed away in an apparent plane crash, piloting his own private aircraft at 40 years old. Halladay’s career accomplishments are endless, most notably tossing a perfect game, a no-hitter in the 2010 National League Divisional Series, and seven times leading his league in complete games.
Halladay was an influential pitcher and an incredible sight to see, often heralded as the game’s best hurler in his time in baseball. Most believe a posthumous Cooperstown visit is in store for the 6’6″ righty, a take I would agree with.
Halladay’s death is as sad as it is when you account for his age, and how recent his retirement really was. Halladay was just settling into life after being a dominant player, having the fun and enjoyment all retirees deserve. Before his plane, designed specifically for low flights, failed him in the Gulf of Mexico, “Doc” had often posted pictures of his kids, his life in the air, and the high school baseball team for which he served as pitching coach on Twitter.
Because, well, Roy Halladay was human. The effusions of glee we experience as humans are what Halladay felt for his kids, his wife, his youth baseball team, his plane. We feel it for baseball teams and players like Halladay, imagining them as eternal visualizations and examples of unmatched admiration.
That’s why it hurts as much as it does, to me. As baseball fans, we seem to internalize that once a player makes the major leagues (and has as successful of a career as Halladay had), that they were finished products, there for our idolization. They can’t experience the same hardship as us, because fans like you and me look to the players for comfort through our own struggles.
They are and will be permanent, immortal stalwarts of our lives, our aspirations, our peace. There is absolutely nothing that can change that, at least we think. Baseball players are godly spirits to us, as we don their names on our backs and collect pieces of paper with their faces on them to feel the happiness we all need.
Idolization makes it seem impossible that a player, a person, and a perfect ambassador to the game like Halladay could pass away from something so ordinarily human. Pilots of aircrafts, sailors of boats such as Jose Fernandez, car accident victims like Yordano Ventura, et cetera. It’s difficult to comprehend a staple of our childhood and present happiness being taken away due to a set of circumstances that apply to us as well.
It’s genuinely heartbreaking and authentically confusing to learn of a death so commonly human. Halladay being stripped of half of his life via something as simple and unsullied as a plane accident takes a long time to set in, because it could happen to you and me, too.
That Halladay passed away living his best life is what we can take solace in, but that Halladay, Fernandez, Ventura, and many others were killed performing actions you and I might also perform is simply an odd thought. That death could have been us, a mere baseball fan, not a future Hall-of-Fame pitcher like Halladay.
Delighting in the smooth, tall right-hander with pinpoint control did nothing more than make the impact of his death harder. His beauty on the mound made everyone around him smile. He was the most feared and respected figure in the majors in his prime — that I can say with confidence.
Halladay was a pro’s pro, an artful craftsman, and a dedicated pure winner. He gave everything his body allowed him to and more. His death won’t be remembered as I have described — unambiguously startling — as much as it will be recalled as a sad ending to the life of a baseball hero and idol. Rest in peace, Doc.