On opening day, April 5th, 2010, in Nationals Park, Roy Halladay threw his first pitch as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies won 11-1 off Halladay's 7IP, 9K performance. The love affair had officially begun.
Roy Halladay was a big talent being smothered by a weak team in a strong division for too long. Over the course of Halladay's time in Toronto, the Yankees won the World Series 3 times (went to 5) and the Red Sox won it twice. The Phillies are able to sympathize with this considering the Atlanta Braves had recently won the division 14 times in a row. So it was with open arms did the Phillies and the fans welcome Doc as the Phillies looked to return to the World Series for the 3rd straight time in 2010 and give him a chance to play in the postseason.
When the Phillies clinched the NL East in 2010, Halladay was on the mound. The Phillies won 8-0 over the Nationals where the season had started 157 games ago. I was ecstatic for two reasons, the Phillies were going back to the playoffs as NL East Champions, and Roy Halladay was going to get to pitch in the postseason with a shot at going to the World Series - his ultimate dream.
Why they were special was Doc threw a no-hitter in the opening game against the Cincinnati Reds. To date, it was the most dazzling and spectacular pitching performance that I have ever watched for all 9 innings. It was truly amazing. After that game, I thought to myself, that game alone meant we were sweeping the Reds. What team after getting no-hit to start a series - on the road nonetheless, would come back from that? That year, 2010, Doc won his 2nd Cy Young award. He was now the 5th pitcher all-time to earn the honor in both the AL and NL.
Even though the Phillies fell short of a pennant in 2010, Philadelphia had now become devoted to Roy Halladay for life. The funny thing is that he didn't win anything that year, or any other. People always talk about Philadelphia as the toughest place for athletes to play and how ruthless we can be. Most of this stems from the tough football culture that exists across the street from Citizens Bank Park. But in the case of Roy Halladay, it shows that Philly fans do in fact have a soft side. Doc was the perfect Philadelphia athlete. He had the hardest work ethic, the biggest heart, and a never-say-die attitude, constantly. And that is why he was loved and will always be held in such high regard in the city of Philadelphia.
2011 was the year of the Four Aces. Halladay, Hamels, Lee, and Oswalt. Doc finished 19-6 as the Phillies finished with a 102-60 record. Could be argued to be the best Phillies team of all-time. This team, again fell short to the eventual world series champion St. Louis Cardinals. I was actually in attendance game 5 of that NLDS. To me, that was the most depressing way to end a game, season, and era all in one. The Phillies lost 1-0 behind a dominant effort from Roy Halladay. Chris Carpenter was just the better pitcher that night and the Phillies couldn't manage to get a single runner across home plate. Ryan Howard blew out his Achilles and the once feared and dominant Philadelphia Phillies were no more.
The next two years were injury plagued and Halladay became just a shell of what he once was. It was sad to see the fight in Halladay held back by his physical limitations. We the fans could tell something wasn't right with him but always appreciated the fight in him. He spoke to that during his retirement press conference today. He was not about to tell the trainers that he either wasn't supposed to be out there or was too hurt to go out there and compete. What else could you ask for as a fan? Doc was still better than the bottom of our rotation and was clearly the hardest worker.
Halladay's tenure in Philadelphia can definitely be split right down the middle and observed in two halves, the good and the bad. I have no doubt that the good, some would say the two best years of his career, are going to far outweigh the bad. He should always be remembered for those years at the end of a great era of Phillies baseball. An era that I hope comes around again soon.
Watching his press conference today on one of my monitors at work was incredibly sad. Doc spent only 4 years here in Philadelphia, but it felt like so much more than that. He gave to this city more in 4 years than some athletes do their entire careers. Roy Halladay is everything you want an athlete to be. He has an incomparable work ethic, that we can only hope has made an impression on current and future Phillies. He is a family man and a man of integrity. He shows appreciation for good fans and their support, but we all know he earned 100% of that support. Even though he will retire a Toronto Blue Jay, an admirable request by him, he will go down as one of the best players do ever wear a Phillies uniform.
Best of luck to you in retirement, Roy. Philadelphia will always cherish the time you spent here.
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