Toronto Blue Jays pitching great Roy Halladay died on Tuesday after crashing his plane into the Gulf of Mexico. He was 40. Here are some of the highlights of his career in Major League Baseball.
LANDING IN TORONTO WITH A SPLASH
Selected by the Blue Jays 17th overall in the 1995 draft, Halladay made his Major League Baseball debut for Toronto on Sept. 20, 1995, striking out five and giving up three runs — two earned — in a 7-5 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Florida. It was in his second career start, however, that he made the best impression. Halladay was two outs away from the first no-hitter in Blue Jays history, fanning eight in a complete game 2-1 win over the Detroit Tigers in Toronto. Pinch hitter Bobby Higginson broke up Halladay's shutout bid with a home run to deep left field before the rookie pitcher closed out the game.
A CAREER-SAVING DEMOTION
After Halladay's fast start in 1998 he began to lose momentum. His fastball was clocked at 95 miles per hour but it lacked movement and was often high in the strike zone, making it easy for hitters to tee off on it. He had a 10.64 earned-run average in 19 games in 2000, making it the worst in MLB history for any pitcher with at least 50 innings pitched. He was sent to Class A Dunedin to start the 2001 season where pitching coach Mel Queen helped him change his delivery and rely less on power and more on accuracy. The demotion would pay off for the 24-year-old Halladay.
BACK IN THE BIGS WITH A VENGEANCE
Halladay earned his first all-star game appearance in 2002, finishing the season with a 19-7 record, a 2.93 ERA, and 168 strikeouts over 239.1 innings pitched. The next season he would be even better, winning the Cy Young Award as the American League's best pitcher. That year he finished with a 3.25 ERA, 204 strikeouts and a league-best 22-7 record.
MOVING TO PHILLY
Although he continued to be an effective starting pitcher, earning his sixth all-star selection in 2009 with a 17-10 record and 208 strikeouts, the rebuilding Blue Jays traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies on Dec. 15, 2009. In return, Toronto received minor league prospects Travis d'Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, and Michael Taylor. Halladay wrote an open letter to Toronto that was published in the city's daily newspapers. It closed with these thoughts: "I am sincerely grateful for the incredible support and compassion the Blue Jays fans have always shown me. I am in awe of your overwhelming passion and devotion. Toronto will forever have a special place in my heart. The memories will last a lifetime and so will my gratitude."
PERFECT GAME, PERFECT TEAMMATE
Halladay wrote his name in the history books early the next season, pitching the 20th perfect game in Major League Baseball on May 29, 2010. He retired all 27 Florida Marlins hitters he faced, striking out 11 and allowing no hits, walks or errors. To thank his teammates and the Phillies coaching staff he bought 60 Swiss-made watches with the inscription "We did it together. Thanks, Roy Halladay."
A HISTORIC PLAYOFF DEBUT
He continued his impressive 2010 season when the Phillies made the playoffs. He pitched a no-hitter in his first post-season appearance on Oct. 6, 2010, only the second pitcher to ever accomplish the feat and the first in National League history. He joined Don Larsen of the 1956 New York Yankees, who pitched a perfect game in the World Series, as the only pitchers in MLB history to throw no-hitters in the playoffs. Between his perfect game at the start of the season and the post-season no-hitter, Halladay was a shoe-in to win the National League's Cy Young Award.
RETIRING AS A BLUE JAY
After three more seasons in Philadelphia, the 36-year-old Halladay began to struggle on the mound. He missed months of the 2013 season after getting shoulder surgery on his throwing arm. His stats reflected his injury troubles as his ERA ballooned to a 6.82 ERA and he only managed a 4-5 record in 13 starts for the Phillies. On Dec. 9 of that year Halladay signed a ceremonial one-day contract with the Blue Jays to retire with the team that drafted him.
CANADIAN BASEBALL HALL OF FAMER
Halladay continued his involvement with baseball as a guest instructor for the Blue Jays and Phillies while pursuing his hobby of recreational flying. On June 24, 2017, he and former Montreal Expos outfielder Vladimir Guerrero headlined the induction class of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press