Phillies

Through the tears, the Halladay family finds joy in Cooperstown honor

Through the tears, the Halladay family finds joy in Cooperstown honor

NEW YORK — It was a beautiful family portrait, a mom with a shining smile flanked by her two handsome teenage sons.

There was a fourth person in this snapshot and though you couldn’t see him, you could feel his powerful presence in the words of the people who loved him most.

“I never saw him as Roy Halladay,” 14-year-old Ryan said. “I just saw him as Dad.”

Of all the touching tributes that poured out about Roy Halladay the day after his first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame, that was the sweetest. Ryan, his 18-year-old brother Braden, and their mom, Brandy, had made the trip from Tampa to New York (on Phillies owner John Middleton’s private plane) early Wednesday morning and now, here they were, in a 20th floor ballroom at a posh Manhattan hotel for the official day-after-election Hall of Fame news conference.

Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez, all elected with Halladay, sat on a dais in front of the room, their elation justified and impossible to hide. The Halladay family, at their choosing, sat quietly among the seated guests. They are still hurting, and always will, after losing their husband and dad at the age of 40 in a plane crash 15 months ago. But, make no mistake, they felt the same elation and pride as the other men on their first day as Hall of Famers.

“To be able to be here and see the appreciation and love that everyone has for Roy and his efforts and hard work, that means the world to us,” Brandy said off to the side of the dais.

She glanced proudly at her two sons. As little boys, they followed their dad around the Phillies clubhouse. On the night Roy pitched his playoff no-hitter at Citizens Bank Park in October 2010, Ryan played in the kids’ room downstairs while Braden sat in the seats with his mom and squirmed nervously while dad put the finishing touches on a masterpiece.

“It’s crazy just to know a person who is a Hall of Famer,” said Braden, blond and lanky, looking so much like his dad. “That’s big in itself. But to have that person as your dad — that’s something that is crazy that I still can’t comprehend.”

Little known fact: The Phillies strongly considered selecting Halladay, a Denver-area high school prospect, in the first round of the 1995 draft. Team officials, however, had concerns about the young pitcher’s delivery, worried that he might not hold up physically, and instead selected outfielder Reggie Taylor with the 14th pick. Other teams had the same concerns. Halladay was picked 17th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Phillies were right to have concerns about young Halladay’s delivery. Oh, he made it to the big leagues quickly and flirted with a no-hitter in his second start. But by the end of his second season in the majors, he was “getting his ass kicked” in the words of then Jays manager Buck Martinez. In the spring of 2001, the Jays sent Halladay, then 23, all the way back to the low minors to see if they could save his career with a complete overhaul of his delivery. 

“He hated me for it,” Martinez recalled recently.

Brandy was with her husband for every difficult step.

“That was a really tough year … or two … or three,” she said Wednesday.

The couple considered giving up the dream and walking away from baseball. Roy thought about going to college.

“We thought we were done,” Brandy said. “The truth is, they didn’t send us back thinking we were going to make it. They sent us back to figure out what they were going to do with us and who they could trade to get for us. Roy fought really, really hard to get back.”

With the help of pitching coach Mel Queen, Halladay went through a complete mechanical remake that season in the minors. He lowered his arm angle to increase movement on his pitches, added a shoulder tuck to increase deception and gained body momentum by straightening his direction from the rubber to home plate. He made it back to the majors — triumphantly — and won 19 games in 2002. He won 22 the next season and earned the American League Cy Young Award in 2003.

Halladay would not have made it back to the majors without the support of his wife, a fiery extrovert who is not one to sit on the sidelines. After her husband was sent to the minors, she went to a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Florida.

“I bought every self-help book I could find,” she said with a laugh. “I still have a stack of them at home.” 

There was gold in that stack of books. Halladay read The Mental ABC’s of Pitching by sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman. He didn’t just read it, he lived it. Dorfman became a mentor to Halladay to the point where the pitcher was well on his way to becoming a “performance specialist” at the time of his death. He had even worked with a number of Phillies prospects on the mental aspects of pitching the day before his death.

There was another factor in Halladay’s growth from potential first-round flame out to Hall of Famer.

He had the inner drive of 100 turbo engines.

Where did it come from?

“I don’t want to say fear, but when you’re terrified to lose you’ll do anything you can to succeed,” Brandy said. “And he did not want to lose and so he did every possible thing he could to win. That’s what he did. He worked hard every day.”

Halladay wanted to win so badly that he pushed for a trade to the Phillies in 2009. The Phillies were up in those days. The Jays were rebuilding. In 12 seasons in Toronto, Halladay never pitched in the postseason. Pitchers only have so many bullets in their arms and his clock was ticking. He saw the Phillies as a team that could get him to the postseason. He was traded to the Phillies before the 2010 season and experienced the thrill of the postseason twice with his new club.

Philadelphia was so special to Halladay that his family has made the decision he will go into the Hall of Fame without a team’s logo on his cap. Out of respect for both of his baseball homes, including the one in which he spent just four of his 16 seasons, he will go into the Hall with a blank cap on his bronze plaque (see story).

“It was an amazing opportunity,” Brandy said of her family’s time in Philadelphia. “It’s the most loving, passionate, insane city. It was everything we hoped to have a chance to be a part of.”

Halladay did not win a World Series ring in Philadelphia. But late in his career, as he gained wisdom and perspective, he often talked about the importance of enjoying the journey. He loved his Philadelphia journey, loved pitching in front of those sellout crowds. He laid the foundation for a Hall of Fame career in Toronto and pushed it over the goal line with two postseason berths, a perfect game, a no-hitter and another Cy Young Award in Philadelphia.

Halladay will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 21 in Cooperstown, New York. Those who earn their way there gain a measure of immortality and that is certainly comforting to a family that has been through so much.

“Just to be able to think that people are going to be able to remember him for hundreds or thousands of years after we’re all gone is pretty special,” Braden said.

His mom’s eyes welled with emotion.

“I don’t think time heals wounds,” Brandy Halladay said. “I think time gives you an opportunity to learn how to live with your new circumstances. You don’t ever heal. You don’t ever forget somebody. You don’t ever get over something. You just learn how to deal with it in a new way.

“I’m super choked-up right now but things really are great and I’m grateful and we’re learning and we’re growing and we’re good …

“These are good tears.”

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Baseball America’s always interesting Top 100 Prospects list landed this week and the Phillies are represented with two players in the top half.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard ranks 27th on the list and third baseman Alec Bohm 28th. Both players are projected to open the coming season at Triple A and get to the majors at some point in 2020. Both have been invited to major-league spring training camp, which begins in less than three weeks in Clearwater. See the complete list of Phillies’ in-house non-roster invites here.

Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. We profiled him here.

In its story on the Top 100 prospects, Baseball America offered this take on Howard: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

Bohm, 23, was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He hit .305 with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and a .896 OPS at three levels, including Double A in 2019. We profiled him here.

Baseball America offered this take on Bohm: Even with questions about whether he’ll have to move to first base, Bohm has the feel to hit and plus power to hit in the middle of the Phillies’ order, and soon.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list for the second year in a row. The Rays placed eight players on the list. Because of a loaded farm system, the Rays were unable to protect left-hander Cristopher Sanchez on their 40-man roster and the Phillies traded for him in November. Read about Sanchez here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers placed seven players on the list and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres had six each.

The Miami Marlins led National League East teams with five players in the Top 100, including former Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was traded for J.T. Realmuto a year ago. Sanchez ranks 16th on the list and is projected to arrive in the majors sometime in 2020.

The Atlanta Braves placed four players on the list and the Washington Nationals and New York Mets joined the Phillies with two players.

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