John Finger

Roy Halladay’s true legacy was his perseverance

Roy Halladay’s true legacy was his perseverance

The following is a guest post from John Finger who covered Roy Halladay's playoff no-hitter for CSNPhilly at the time.

We knew it almost immediately, as soon as we took our seats in the press box. We knew we were going to see something special.

By the end of the first inning, we knew we were going to be witnessing history.

From 2010 and even to 2013, we knew we were going to see something pretty special whenever Roy Halladay took the mound to throw a baseball. We saw it during spring training where Roy was wrapping up his day by the time most of the writer types were rolling out of bed. Every day, from before the sun rose or even after ball games, we saw the drive.

Roy Halladay worked harder, smarter and better than anyone we ever saw before. He was revered by his teammates and the fans and never took anything for granted.

It was obvious.

So, when he pitched a perfect game in Miami and made the writers wait 45 minutes while he rode a stationary bike, we knew it was no act. And when he threw that no-hitter against the Reds in the first game of the 2010 postseason — his first-ever appearance in the playoffs — we had a sense almost immediately.  

“I wonder how many times I would have struck out if I would have kept going up there,” Scott Rolen said after going 0 for 3 with three strikeouts against Halladay that night in October 2010. Teammates for parts of two seasons in Toronto, Rolen knew what we were watching.

He knew it was inevitable.

“Being his teammate, [a no-hitter] could happen every time he goes out there. You know that,” Rolen said on Oct. 6, 2010. "You don't expect it, though. We didn't draw it up like that in our hitters' meetings, but we had our hands full. He's the best pitcher in baseball in my opinion."

Joey Votto, who grounded out three times that day, might have explained it the best.

“When you’re trying to thread a needle at the plate, it's miserable. It's not fun up there trying to hit nothing,” Votto said.

But if you thought for a moment that Roy Halladay's legacy was built around perfect games, no-hitters, the pre-dawn workouts and reverence from baseball's toughest audience (its players), you didn't get it. 

Roy Halladay is the pitcher who went from the majors to the low minors in 2001. After appearing in 57 games over three seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays, Halladay was sent from the majors to Single A.

Think about this for a second — Halladay was a first-round draft pick out of high school, made it to the big leagues at age 21 and came one out away from throwing a no-hitter in just his second big-league start. He had the ethic and the pedigree and was sent from the peak of baseball to the lowest rung of organized baseball. It was the type of development that would devastate most players and end the career of a regular guy. 

But there was nothing about Roy Halladay that was normal. Nothing at all.

Instead of licking his wounds, Halladay reinvented himself from top to bottom. He took the demotion and refocused his commitment to the game. He worked with Harvey Dorfman, a psychologist, and author of "The Mental ABC's of Pitching," and remodeled his pitching delivery.

He went back to zero. Hit the reset button and started from scratch. So after reinventing and rebuilding himself, Halladay was back in the majors by July of 2001. With his new pitching motion, Halladay developed more movement with his fastball and came up with a sinker and a cutter.

The rest is well known. Two Cy Young Awards, a perfect game, a no-hitter in the playoffs and the chance to witness greatness every time he took the mound. Every time Halladay did something, you inched up closer in your seat, you noticed how the air smelled and where you were at the exact moment.

You savored it.

That's just what Halladay did when he had retired from baseball. He threw himself into his life as a retired dad of two teenaged boys and a husband to his wife, Brandi. He coached the kid's baseball team, he took sports psychology classes at the University of South Florida so he could give back to budding baseball players the way Harvey Dorfman mentored him. 

The way Halladay pitched and worked out was the way he lived his retired life. Judging from his Twitter account, no one enjoyed retirement more than Roy Halladay. His humor was as sure as his mastery of the strike zone. He took selfies of himself in a t-shirt and shorts next to an unsuspecting fan in a "Halladay" shirsey. He went to the zoo with Zoo With Roy. 

“We will all remember Roy for his amazing moments on the field, how he dialed it up in the most important situations, how he competed and left his heart on the field every time he took the ball,” said childhood friend and big-league teammate, Brad Lidge. “But he was also an incredible dad, an incredible husband and an incredible teammate. He was quiet and thoughtful but knew how to be playful. I competed against Roy since we were in Little League together and I will remember him in that way, and as a man. It was a privilege to know him and his family and to have been his teammate. Our hearts go out to Brandy, his kids and his family.”

He flew planes, logging more than 800 hours in the air. He had his instrument rating, his multi-engine rating and was working on getting his commercial rating. He wanted to teach his sons about flying, just like he showed them about baseball.

And life. Roy Halladay proved that it's never too late for the no-hitters. Perseverance has its rewards. You can re-invent yourself.

Just as long as you give it your all.

A quiet moment of victory with the only two winners in Phillies history

A quiet moment of victory with the only two winners in Phillies history

And there I was after the 2008 World Series, one of the greatest victories in Philadelphia sports history, wondering who was going to clean up the mess. I had just reentered the main clubhouse after standing in manager Charlie Manuel's office with him and Dallas Green, the only two men to manage the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series title. I went into Charlie's office to ask him some questions about the great achievement for my stories for my job writing about the team for Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia, only to find him sitting there, still in uniform and with a bottle of V.O. on his desk next to the silver remote control. Charlie had a grin on his face and really didn't feel like doing too much talking. He just wanted to sit back and stay out of the way so his guys could spray champagne and spark up in the other room. After all, it was an emotional time for Charlie. Not only had he achieved a lifelong dream of winning the World Series, but just two weeks before the victory, his mother had died of heart failure in the rural Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
 
Charlie never really had a chance to grieve for his mother yet, since she died shortly before Game 2 of the National League Championship Series and he couldn't leave his team. But sitting there as the party raged around him and throughout the city, thousands of thoughts must have raced through Charlie's head.
 
He glanced up at the TV where images of people dancing in the streets flickered as if it were beamed back from a foreign country far away where they dance all night until the sun comes up.
 
"It’s good to see everyone happy," he said. "That makes me feel good."
 
Off in the corner in an overstuffed chair, Green sat with a huge smile that matched the sparkle from his World Series ring he won with the team in 1980. Brash only begins to describe Green's personality. Boisterous, combative and prone to controversial comments only scratches the surface with Green. As a manager, he cajoled, fought with and browbeat his team into the playoffs and in 1980, it rallied together just to spite him. Of course, it makes you wonder if that was his plan all along. Machiavellian behavior is nothing to put past a baseball man no matter how little time they spent in school or how many books they had read written by Italian philosophers.
 
However, this time there was nothing to fight over. It was over. The good guys won and Green finally had a new member in his very select club.
 
"I’ve been in baseball 52 years, so I’ve seen a lot," Green said. "When you’re with a team for so many years and you get to know the guys and the coaching staff and Charlie... I love these guys. They have proven to me that they are a helluva baseball team. They care about each other and they care about winning. I told anyone who would listen that they are a resilient team, they come to play and they want to win. Charlie has them convinced that you don't get too high and you don’t get too low--you just play the game.

"He did it differently than I would have, but that’s what managing is all about."
 
In terms of praise from one baseball man to another, that's about as deep as it gets. After all, these are men from a different era and a different background than me or my friends in the writing corps. Charlie came from Buena Vista, Virginia, the oldest of 11 children and whose father was a Pentecostal preacher. Charlie's father hated baseball and thought his son was just wasting his time playing the game when he could be in church every day. But Charlie's dad had trouble sorting through his own demons and committed suicide when his oldest son was 18, leaving them with a $117 monthly pension from the government and forcing young Charlie to give up a college scholarship to play basketball and go to work.
 
This time baseball paid off. In 1963 he went off to play minor league ball in the Twins organization and then returned home to work in the local sawmill for $48.50 a week.
 
Green, from Newport, Delaware, just a short drive south on I-95 from Philadelphia, never had to give back a scholarship or work in the local sawmill. Instead, Green went to the University of Delaware in nearby Newark where he was a pitcher on the baseball team and got his first job after graduating in 1955 as a pitcher in the Phillies organization. Since then, Green has had a number of jobs in plenty of different cities, but they have all been in baseball.
 
Like a lot of folks, he was in it for life.
 
Still, I wanted Charlie to see the party. Considering he had been in pro baseball since 1963 and traveled all over the world, including Japan, where as a home run-hitting gaijin he was known as The Red Devil, and had been on the winning side of the World Series just once, it seemed like a good idea for him to see his players party firsthand. After all, sometimes the World Series trophy lands at your doorstep twice in 125 years.
 
Instead, Charlie was content to sit in his office with the TV on with Dallas grinning in the corner.
 
"Champagne burns my damn eyes. I have some V.O. up here," he said.
 
I couldn’t resist, though. The revelry after the glory was something I had wanted to witness my entire life. And with the party trudging through the first wave and most of the writers back in the press box typing away at stories attempting to make sense of it all, I waded back in.
 
Needless to say, I found what I was looking for.
 
When you're a kid and baseball is one of the few things that can keep your attention, the post-World Series clubhouse scene is one of the most mesmerizing events broadcast on television. Where else could you ever see something like that? Sure, some correspondent from a remote spot on the map could beam some form of chaos into your living room, but that is usually undecipherable. Why are people rioting in the streets? What or who are they angry with? Will anyone get hurt?
 
Better yet, who is going to clean up afterwards?
 
But after the final game of the World Series, everyone knows what's going on. From a soft chair in your home, it looks like the wildest party ever--or at least the wildest party in which the authorities are not summoned. Think about it... where or when can a regular guy throw a party in which all the guests are allowed to scream as loud as they want, make a mess in which one takes a full bottle of champagne or beer to be shaken and sprayed on anything or anyone that moves, all while giving hugs to anyone in sight.
 
It's bedlam, only with the danger removed.
 
Even the best party you ever attended or hosted was tinged with an undercurrent of uncomfortability or fear. Maybe some people you don't know or don't like will show up. Isn't that always a drag? Sometimes it's even worse than the stress of worrying whether something valuable will be broken or a bunch of people might disappear in order to do something borderline illegal while rooting through your drawers. Who needs that? Who wants that?
 
Nobody. Nobody wants their home treated like the sleazy motel just off the highway and near a thicket of woods that rents rooms by the hour. It's difficult to get a good night's sleep in a place like that, what with the sticky floors, dirty sheets, graham cracker-thin walls that offer little privacy from the recreational activities of the meth heads next door, and the parking lot full of semi-trucks.
 
What a headache!
 
On television, though, following the clinching game of the World Series, it looks as if anything goes. Not only that, it looks as if people were forcibly crammed into every available space in the room complete with men and women in suits speaking into microphones in front of TV cameras covered with plastic. Spill something? Hell, who cares! Someone will be by to clean up.
 
But they can clean up some other time. Right now it's Charlie, Dallas, a bottle of V.O. and me. I’m a big ugly fly on the wall of the most exclusive club in Philadelphia sports history.
 
Charlie Manuel, Dallas Green and a bottle of V.O. The only souls to walk the earth that won the World Series for the Philadelphia Phillies.
 
Top that.

Allen Iverson Top Moment: Scoring 60 at home

Allen Iverson Top Moment: Scoring 60 at home

Editor's note: This series of articles originally ran in 2014, when the Sixers retired Allen Iverson's number.

February 12, 2005

A basketball coach can find fault in any player's performance. For instance, when talking about Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, former Sixers coach Doug Collins quipped, “He took 63 shots!”

Fair enough. But Wilt also had 25 rebounds and a pair of assists that night in Hershey, Pa.

Certainly it’s easy to understand Collins’ underlying point. If one guy is taking all the shots, the other players might not feel like they are part of the team. Last month Carmelo Anthony scored 62 points against Charlotte to set a Knicks record, but he took 35 shots and had goose eggs under the columns for assists, steals and blocks.

What else did he do besides shoot the ball (and grab defensive rebounds)?

But when Allen Iverson scored 60 points to set a career mark on Feb. 12, 2005 against the Magic at the Wells Fargo Center, there wasn’t much he didn’t do.

Iverson went 17 for 36 in the 112-99 victory over the Magic, but went 24 for 27 from the foul line, led the team with six assists, five steals and a block. And for as much as Iverson had his hands on the ball that night, he committed just three turnovers.

That 60-point game for Iverson was a perfect storm of sorts. When the season began, coach Jim O’Brien moved Iverson from the two-guard spot and let him handle the point. As a result, Iverson led the league in scoring (30.7), steals (180), free-throw attempts (656) and shots (1,818). He scored 30 or more points in 35 games, 40-plus in nine games and had back-to-back 50-point performances as a precursor to the explosion against the Magic.

It wasn’t as if Iverson was going up against a bad Orlando team, either. The Magic had Dwight Howard, Steve Francis, Grant Hill, Doug Christie, Jameer Nelson and Tony Battie. Yes, Howard and Nelson were rookies at the time, but Orlando was a team on the rise.

There is some historical context, too. Over the last 20 years, only six players have scored 60 or more in a game. It’s also the most points scored in a game by a Sixer not named Wilt Chamberlain and the fourth-best output in a game in franchise history.

“When you’re talking to me, and you’re mentioning Wilt Chamberlain in the same sentence with me, I don’t have (any) words after that,” Iverson said after the game. “I mean, what can I say? You mention somebody that’s 6-feet, 165 (pounds) soaking wet, and somebody seven some feet.”