Ten years ago today, on an overcast day at Citizens Bank Park, Roy Halladay had a day a thousand scriptwriters couldn't dream of. In his first career playoff start, Halladay mowed down the Cincinnati Reds, in a performance about as perfect as one can possibly have.
Just one of the 28 batters he faced reached base: Jay Bruce, who walked on a 3-2 pitch. Halladay was so dialed in, the Reds hitters admitted after the game they were stepping out of the batter's box to attempt to take him out of his groove. Nothing worked.
It was the second no-hitter in MLB postseason history. A nearly perfect game, thrown by a quite imperfect pitcher.
This is not a slight on Roy Halladay, the pitcher, or the man who lost his life three years ago when he crashed his airplane into the Gulf of Mexico. The fact that he pitched so well, for so long, while likely dealing with anxiety issues that nearly derailed his career a decade earlier is a testament to the man he was.
Halladay's widow, Brandy, spoke to that point at Roy's Hall of Fame induction ceremony last summer.
"I think that Roy would want everyone to know that people are not perfect," she said. "We are all imperfect and flawed in one way or another. We all struggle, but with hard work, humility, and dedication, imperfect people can still have perfect moments."
Sports fans, whether justified or not, hold professional athletes to a higher standard than mere mortals. This is especially so of those athletes who are elite in their craft, the best of the best. When they fall from grace, it's much more precipitous.
The toxicology report of Halladay's shocking death, which became public in 2018, confirmed in greater detail his drug use. It said that Halladay had a number of drugs in his system at the time of the plane crash that killed him. There was evidence of amphetamine, an insomnia drug, and morphine in his system.
The National Transportation Safety Board interviewed Halladay's father, Harry Leroy Halladay, Jr., about his son. His father revealed that he was "concerned that Roy was abusing prescription medications, and that may have played a role in the accident" that killed him, and that his son "was suffering from anxiety and depression," and "had not been himself for several years."
It's always jarring when you hear news of someone whose life ends abruptly. Forty years old is far too soon for a physically healthy person, especially a former pro athlete. Your thoughts turn to his family; the wife and two teenage sons he left behind.
To some, the circumstances surrounding Halladay's death tarnished what he was able to do for so many years on a pitcher's mound. We see it far too often in the world of music. Some of the most talented stars taken from us far before their time, many due to drug overdoses, or the effects of substance abuse. It doesn't take away the beautiful songs they shared with us. The wonderful pieces of music they crafted will continue to live on and we can always sing along.
Make no mistake. Drug abuse, and addiction, like the anxiety and depression that surely led to the addiction, are mental health issues. Athletes are just like you and me: human beings, flawed, messed-up human beings. While they look and seem like a better version of what we dream we could have been when we were children, they are flesh and bone, with weaknesses. Imperfect people with the same dreams and nightmares, with the same highs and lows as anyone else.
According to his father, Roy Halladay was dealing with anxiety and depression. He nearly quit the game early in his big-league career, when major struggles on the mound led the Blue Jays to demote him from the majors all the way down to Single A.
Imagine winning two Cy Young awards, pitching a perfect game, and a no-hitter in a postseason game, and wondering if any of it was good enough.
The details behind his death cast a shadow on the legacy of Roy Halladay. But we can choose to realize that, just like us, Roy wasn't perfect.
We can choose to remember the joy he brought us when he played, when he dominated. And we can always sing along.