(Sometimes it’s difficult to collect thoughts and pass them on. It’s just that sometimes the words that float about in them don’t seem to be saying the right thing – or anything at all. Sometimes the tragedy that happens just leaves us all feeling lost in some kind of feeling that no words really can do anything for. They just seem like words. Just words. And sometimes we can be at a loss for them. Sometimes just being at a loss is what’s right in that moment.)
I think for many of us when we lose someone, we turn to music and old photos to remember that person who has left us. And to be honest, I have spent hours on YOUTUBE watching old clips of Roy ‘the Doc’ Halladay and listening to music to deal with the tragedy that struck on Tuesday afternoon.
And while I was searching all the best memories I have of him on the dirt hill being the greatest Blue Jay of all time with his classic Doc like glove over the head, wind up, and release – an LCD Soundsystem song came on from the playlist I was listening to. And it was a song I used to play over and over again when my grandmother passed away.
The song is called ‘Someone Great’, and it really is one of my favourites by James Murphy and his musical project. It’s the lyric he repeats, which is ‘when someone great is gone’ that has always just left me with a feeling where words just get lost. The song ends with the lyrics, “We’re safe, for the moment, saved, for the moment.” And it always just makes me take a second to appreciate that this little spin on this rock is brief and should be lived.
And for me, the Doc Halladay years represent a youthful time that I was a part of here in Toronto. It was a time when I was still young enough to be lost and enjoy the moment while trying to figure out what I was going to do with my future and my degree. It was a time of sitting in Trinity Bellwoods park with friends, drinking tall cans, riding our bikes to different dive bars, and going to the Dome for a cheap night of baseball because it cost less than anything else to do in the city.
I was in my twenties when Doc was the only thing that kept baseball alive in Canada. And even though I try to forget those (Blue Jays) years, I seem to still miss them for some reason. It could be a nostalgic kind of thing since I’m in the tail end of my thirties now, and I like to think back to that time when I cared more about the words that my favourite writers wrote than I did about money - just as long as I had enough, of course. My twenties were years of sleeping on my future, chasing dreams, and ignoring reality with laughter and my friends.
And Roy Halladay was that one shining star in the darkest of years that were painted with mediocrity. For me, he was the one reason to walk to the Dome and buy cheap tickets, move to better seats, and watch the team I love. And to be honest, it’s just too hard to try to share my best memory of him because there are just too many he has left us with. But the one memory that comes to mind has to be when A.J. Burnett returned to Toronto with the Yankees and faced the ‘Doc’ in a showdown at that Dome that saw Halladay as the last man standing, of course, beating the Yankees in front of the most passionate Toronto crowd in years.
I listened to that game on the radio in the first apartment I rented in Toronto on Stephanie St. - the 25 story out-of-place building still stands in front of Grange park – I’m sure an eyesore for many condo owners in that area. I remember drinking tall cans with my friend, hanging out on the balcony, smoking tobacco, and being shocked at the raucous sounds that we heard coming from inside the Dome because that kind of noise hadn’t been made by Jays fans in years. It was cool. For that night, baseball in Toronto was cool again. And the truth is, the ‘Doc’ kept baseball alive during a dire decade of lost years.
There are just too many magical moments of perfection that came from him on the mound and to try to really remember them all seems like an arduous task, as they all just blend into one. I wouldn’t even know where to start if I were to make some kind of tribute ‘best of’ Doc moments piece because where would I even begin. His ‘best of’ is his entire career in the MLB from his early struggles - to his years of dominance in Toronto - to his Philly post season no hitter. And when I really think about it, it seems that those moments on the diamond really can’t even compare to the human that he was when he wasn’t in uniform anyway.
It was all that he gave through his charitable work and programs like the Doc Box (which was a luxury suite he paid for to host sick children and get them into the ballpark to enjoy a game) that truly showed us people the type of person that he was. And it were the things that he did off the mound that defined him as a human.
It’s was always more than just baseball with Roy Halladay, it seemed to be more about giving and acting from a place that hits the mark that so many people often miss. In a world full of internet assholes, selfies, and Facebook likes – it’s refreshing to see that there are great people like Halladay out there who are more than an aggressive tweet – or a picture that shows off some bling.
In an old story by Richard Griffin that Keegan Matheson retweeted after the horrific news on Tuesday afternoon, Brandi (Roy’s wife) talks about her husband, as she really shows just what type of person he was. It was this specific part of the interview that I think is most indicative of Halladay's character:
Major-league players are paid on the 15th and 30th of every month. According to Brandi, her husband – the Jays' starting ace who is making $10 million this season – refuses to look at his pay stub. He often simply hands the envelope over to her with his head turned away.
"It bothers him to make as much money as he does," Brandi, 34, said. "He feels like he's out there doing his job. Should he get paid? Of course he should be paid. But there are a lot of people out there that work hard. He works hard at what he does, but it doesn't mean that other people out there don't deserve those kinds of cheques, too. It's kind of humbling. (His charity work) is his way of paying back."
It’s not always just about baseball. It’s not always just about a Scott Boras sized players contract. It’s not always about cruising into spring training with the newest and coolest set of wheels. It’s not always about the money. For some, there’s more. And for Halladay, there was a lot more to life than that.
Roy Halladay is the greatest Blue Jay of all time, and he was great during some of the worst years in franchise history. He carried this club on his shoulders and walked the fans to a new decade. When he requested to be traded and was moved to Philadelphia, a new person waited in the shadows to pick up the torch that Halladay left behind and that, of course, was Jose Bautista.
Roy ‘Doc’ Halladay’s number should be retired by the Toronto Blue Jays organization when it goes on the level of excellence. Sometimes the right thing just needs to be done. And that is the right thing to do. It’s hard to believe that he will not be at that game for that moment. It’s hard to believe he won’t give a speech when he’s inducted into the Hall-Of-Fame. The whole thing is just hard to believe.
Maybe it’s time to start to construct the row of excellence outside a gate at the Dome to pay tribute to the great players who built 1 Blue Jays Way. And maybe it should start with a bronze statue of Doc Halladay. Sometimes it isn’t about money, it’s about doing the right thing. And Halladay was a person that knew this and acted on his feelings. The world needs more people like Roy Halladay. Rest in peace, Doc.