Roy Halladay arrived in Philadelphia to great excitement and fanfare before the 2010 season and rattled off wins in six of his first seven starts. On May 23, in his 10th start with the Phillies, Halladay was roughed up by the Boston Red Sox. He vowed to be better in his next start and backed up his words dramatically by pitching an unforgettable perfect game May 29 in Miami.
Across the state of Florida near Tampa, Brandy Halladay watched her husband's masterpiece on television.
"I was at home," she said. "I wanted to go down, but it was close to home and Roy said, 'Don't worry about it, I'll just come home on the off day.' I was watching it on TV. It was terrifying. People were trying to talk to me. I just sat there and tried to shush people, 'Don't talk, give me a minute.' It was very exciting, so surreal. It was one of those moments that was so big. That was probably one of my more exciting moments, even though I wasn't there for it, because it was like a first big, a first big one."
The Halladay family experienced another big one last week when Roy was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He will be enshrined in Cooperstown on July 21. In honor of his election, NBC Sports Philadelphia is re-airing his 2010 perfect game at 8 p.m. Sunday night and reposting our game story from that special night.
MIAMI — For much of the week, the Phillies' postgame clubhouse was a funeral parlor. A loss with the ace on the mound, followed by three straight shutouts, will do that.
That's just one of the things that made Saturday night so special for the Phillies. A week of lows ended with one of the greatest highs (short of a championship) that a team can experience — a perfect game delivered from the fingertips of Roy Halladay.
"I'm speechless, bro," the always loquacious Shane Victorino said moments after Halladay put the finishing touches on his perfecto in a 1-0 win over the Florida Marlins at Sun Life Stadium.
"That was amazing," Victorino added. "It's hard to believe. I could never have imagined being part of something like this."
Six days removed from his worst start as a Phillie, Halladay mowed through the Marlins' lineup with 11 strikeouts. The 33-year-old right-hander was backed by several nice defensive plays, especially from shortstop Wilson Valdez and third baseman Juan Castro, in pitching the 20th perfect game in major-league history and second in Phillies history. Hall of Famer Jim Bunning had the only other one on June 21, 1964.
As Halladay closed in on the perfect game in the ninth inning, the crowd of 25,086, which included a healthy number of red-clad Phillies fans, stood and cheered every pitch. When Victorino hauled in Mike Lamb's drive to deep center for the first out, the crowd could sense it.
"The fans were awesome," Halladay said. "To be on the road and see them that into it was really special. It made it all the more memorable."
Pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino made the final out on a ground ball to Castro. When Castro's throw landed in first baseman Ryan Howard's glove, Halladay raised his arms in triumph, was greeted by catcher Carlos Ruiz, then mobbed by teammates.
Halladay's first emotion on getting the 27th out?
"It was more a sense of relief in that first second," he said. "The excitement of knowing you're that close, then to have it happen ..."
Halladay had traveled a similar road before only to fall short of a great achievement. On Sept. 27, 1998, in his second big-league start, he came within one out of a no-hitter while pitching for Toronto. Detroit's Bobby Higginson, the former Frankford High and Temple University star, broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out homer in the ninth, and Halladay had to settle for a 2-1 win and a walk-free, eight-strikeout one-hitter.
Halladay never planned on making a run at perfection.
"It's not something you ever think about," he said, his face still red 30 minutes after the final out. "It's hard to explain. There are days when things just click. It's not something you try to do."
Halladay smiled. "It's a great feeling," he said. "A lot better than the eight and two-thirds."
The feeling in the postgame clubhouse was a lot better than it had been for much of the week. Oh, the Phils still had trouble scoring runs — their only run in support of Halladay was unearned — but no one seemed to mind because of what had just taken place on the mound.
In one corner, Castro — who filled in for an injured Placido Polanco — talked about what a thrill it was to be part of Halladay's perfect game.
In another, bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer talked about how he had to urinate for the final five innings but was afraid to leave the bullpen for fear of missing something or jinxing Halladay.
"No one in the bullpen said a peep about the perfect game," Billmeyer said. "They all knew what was happening, but they didn't say a word. When it was over, you should have seen them come out of those chairs."
Amid the excitement in the clubhouse, the team's equipment staff, Frank Coppenbarger and Kevin Steinhour, collected a game ball, a copy of the lineup card and Halladay's cap and shirt. Those mementos will surely be on display somewhere, maybe Cooperstown.
The only person missing from the clubhouse party was Halladay himself. Even after the best game of his career, he adhered, slavishly, to his rigorous postgame workout routine.
"He ain't changing that for a perfect game," pitching coach Rich Dubee said.
Once Halladay was done sweating, he was led to a postgame interview room by media relations official Kevin Gregg. On the way to the interview room, Halladay was stopped by a man he did not know. Halladay looked puzzled as he listened to the man. Within a few seconds, a smile crossed Halladay's face.
"Thank you very much," the pitcher told Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who had stopped to tell Halladay that he had ordered the pitching rubber to be dug up and delivered to Halladay as a souvenir. Sure enough, the Marlins' grounds crew dug up the rubber before the lights went out in the stadium.
After his postgame news conference, Halladay made his way back to the clubhouse and was brought into a private room where there was a phone call waiting from Vice President Joe Biden, a Phillies fan.
Halladay's perfect game was just another example that you never know what to expect in baseball. He was roughed up for seven runs in his previous start, Sunday against Boston, and removed from the game in the sixth inning. After coming out of that game, an angry Halladay told manager Charlie Manuel, "I'm better than that." After watching Halladay subdue the Marlins on 115 pitches Saturday night, Manuel said: "I don't think I could have gotten the ball away from him."
After struggling against Boston, Halladay took some recommendations from Dubee and teammate Jamie Moyer and made some mechanical adjustments to his delivery. Basically, Halladay said, his body was drifting from side to side in his delivery instead of coming straight at the hitter. He made the adjustment in his between-starts bullpen session and knew it was the right thing when he came out with four strikeouts against the first five hitters Saturday night.
Halladay had tremendous life on his pitches. His sinker was explosive. His curveball was sharp. He hit spots and never panicked in a close game — even when he reached seven three-ball counts.
Halladay shared the joy of his perfect game with all his teammates. He praised his catcher, Ruiz, in particular.
"I can't say enough about the game he called," Halladay said. "After four or five innings, I just let him take over and I went with him. It was a no-brainer for me. See the glove, hit the glove. They have good hitters over there. You can't fall into a pattern against them. The way Carlos called the game made a big difference."
After the game, a reporter asked Marlins outfielder Cody Ross if it was embarrassing to be the victim of a perfect game.
Ross said it was not. "Look who's pitching," he said. "Roy Halladay. He's the best pitcher in baseball."
Indeed he was on this night.