Don Larsen and Roy Halladay. Those two names will forever go hand-in-hand.
Larsen and Halladay, of course, are the only two pitchers in baseball history to throw a no-hitter in the postseason. Larsen’s masterpiece is etched more indelibly into the history books than Halladay’s, and rightfully so; Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series. No one else in the history of baseball has done that. However, that moment was the pinnacle of Larsen’s long but relatively average major-league career. Halladay’s no-hitter, which came in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS against the Reds in his first postseason start, was just one of many highlights of a storied career.
I planned to make the case for Halladay's Hall of Fame bid when he became eligible about a year from now. Sadly, I am writing about him a year earlier than expected. Halladay died tragically on Tuesday, in a small plane crash just off the coast of Florida. He was 40. Four days later it remains hard to wrap my head around the fact he is gone. Each day, I recall a different Roy Halladay memory. He was one of the first truly great pitchers I can remember watching, and his years with the Phillies produced some of my most lasting baseball memories. Simply put, Halladay was one of the premier pitchers of this century. Granted, the century is only eighteen years old, but that label will last.
Halladay spent 16 seasons in the majors, the first 12 of which came with the Blue Jays. No single season was the peak of Halladay's career. Rather, he built his reputation through consistent dominance. In particular, Halladay put together a downright remarkable 11-year stretch from 2001 to 2011. In that span, Halladay had an ERA of 2.98 and won two Cy Young Awards - one in the American League, one in the National League. Halladay had a record of 175-78 during that stretch, despite spending nine of those 11 seasons with the Blue Jays, who did not reach the postseason at any point during his tenure. Halladay finished his career with 67 complete games and led his league in complete games seven times. Yes, those are Hall of Fame accolades.
Halladay has the unique honor of being a revered player in the history of two different franchises. He is a Blue Jays legend for obvious reasons. Halladay earned six all-star selections with Toronto, finishing second in franchise history in wins, strikeouts, pitcher WAR (wins above replacement) with 48.5, and shutouts, as well as third in franchise history in innings pitched, games started, and complete games. Halladay's No. 32 will be retired by the Blue Jays without hesitation.
Halladay went on to spend four seasons with the Phillies, only two of which were memorable; injuries, unfortunately, prompted a quick decline after 2011. Memorable, however, might be an understatement. Halladay had the most dominant stretch of his career from 2010-2011, and he was almost unquestionably the most dominant pitcher in the sport during that time, despite being in his mid-30’s. Halladay had a 2.40 ERA over 65 starts between those two seasons, remarkably amassing 17 complete games and averaging over 240 innings pitched while striking out 219 and 220, respectively. Halladay’s 2010 season was legendary, even beyond his final numbers. It will be best remembered for the historic no-hitter he spun in the NLDS, but that wasn't even his most dominant game of the season. Halladay pitched the 20th perfect game in major-league history just months earlier, on May 29, becoming the second pitcher in Phillies history to achieve perfection. Jim Bunning, who tossed the franchise’s first, also passed away this year. Bunning's plaque will soon be joined by Halladay's in Cooperstown.
Roy Halladay was an athlete I always greatly admired. He was 'the man' for an early portion of my baseball fandom, one of the first 'aces' I can remember truly appreciating. I was ecstatic when he threw his postseason no-hitter more than seven years ago. Even then, I knew how special that moment was to the sport. I didn't take too many pictures when I visited the Hall of Fame, but I did make sure to take a picture of the jersey worn by Halladay in his October no-hitter. Now I am especially glad I did so. Beyond the two legendary performances he delivered in 2010, Halladay's late-career dominance was extraordinary and perhaps underappreciated. Between 2010 and 2011 he was the game's best pitcher and a workhorse, perhaps the last of his kind. In his first two seasons with the Phillies, Halladay totaled nine and eight complete games, respectively. The leader in the National League this past season had two. Overall, no pitcher has had more than six complete games in a season since. If only for that reason, we won't see another Roy Halladay for a long time.
Though it's difficult to fathom that he will not be there for it, Halladay is headed for Hall of Fame induction in 2019. When I tell of the great pitchers I grew up watching, Roy Halladay may not be the first name that comes to mind, but he will certainly be a part of that group.
Rest in peace, Doc.