Edgar Martinez doesn’t recall many easy at-bats against Roy Halladay. Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera remember admiring the former Blue Jays ace from across the diamond.
All four players will take their place in the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, but the July ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., will be bittersweet for Martinez, Mussina and Rivera, who won’t have Halladay to share it with.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner, who died in a plane crash in 2017 at age 40, received 85.4 per cent of the vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on his first year on the ballot.
Mussina, who spent his entire career in the AL East as a pitcher with the Orioles and Yankees, said he was thankful to have had a front row seat to most of Halladay’s Hall of Fame career.
“Certain people step out there on the mound and they feel like they’re in control of the game … and I thought Doc was like that,” Mussina said on a conference call following the vote announcement Tuesday night.
“For his family it’s a tremendous honour and to have seen him pitch and pitch against him, it’s an honour for me and I’m proud to say that I was able to do that.”
Halladay spent 12 seasons with the Blue Jays from 1998-2009, pitching more than 2,000 innings and winning the American League Cy Young in 2003.
A great honor for a great player and an even greater person, proud of you dad! I love you pic.twitter.com/I4rZlH5B3M
— Braden Halladay (@BradenHalladay) January 22, 2019
He represented Toronto at six all-star games — he appeared in eight overall — had three 20-win seasons and five with 200 or more strikeouts, and earned the NL Cy Young with the Phillies in 2010 in his first season in Philadelphia.
“The other day I was thinking how sad it is that he’s not around to be with his family and enjoy this great moment,” said Martinez, a former designated hitter with the Mariners. “It will be a moment that his family will be very proud of him and remember him and honour him so it’s kind of bittersweet.
“As a player facing him, he was very difficult. … I don’t remember having a lot of success against him because it felt like it was always a tough at-bat.”
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) January 22, 2019
“Unfortunately we don’t have him with us but he was a tremendous competitor,” Rivera said.
Halladay signed a one-day contract with Toronto in December 2013 to retire as a Blue Jay, and Toronto retired the right-hander’s No. 32 on opening day of the 2018 season, four months after he died when the small sport plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.
“Of the countless players that have worn the Blue Jays uniform, few have done so with the determination and elegance of Roy Halladay,” Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said in a release. “Today is a bittersweet day for our community and organization, as we remember a beloved pitcher, teammate, and family man, but we can take comfort in the boundless impact Roy had on Canadian fans nationwide and the game of baseball.”
Halladay told Toronto reporters in 2016 that he’d go into the Hall of Fame wearing a Blue Jays cap on his plaque. Should that happen, it would make him just the second player to be enshrined as a Blue Jay and first since Roberto Alomar in 2011.
Alomar’s tenure with Toronto didn’t overlap with Halladay’s, but he said he always admired Halladay from afar.
“He was fearless, he was a great pitcher, he liked to compete and I wish I would’ve played with him instead of playing against him because he was really tough to hit,” Alomar said.
“He’s not here with us in person but it’s going to be an honour to see his name … inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
Halladay amassed a 203-105 record and a 3.38 earned-run average and 2,117 strikeouts over 416 regular-season major league games and was 3-2 with a 2.37 ERA through five post-season starts, all with Philadelphia.
He became just the second pitcher in major league history to throw a no-hitter in the post-season, opening the 2010 National League Division Series with one against the Cincinnati Reds in the first playoff start of his career.
That no-hitter was his second after a perfect game earlier that season against Miami.
Halladay led his league in complete games seven times, strikeout-to-walk ratio five times, shutouts four times, innings pitched four times and victories twice.
Canadian right-hander Scott Mathieson, who spent some time with Halladay in Philadelphia, recalled his unmatched work ethic and preparedness.
“I’ve never met someone who worked as hard as he did. There’s nobody that even came close,” the Vancouver native said in a phone interview this week. “They had to give him a key to the facility because he was beating the grounds crew and the maintenance people to the field.
“I remember sitting through some of the pitchers’ meetings and talking to him one on one … I felt embarrassed sometimes because he was so much more prepared than everyone. When I talked to him it felt I really had to do my homework because it was like going up to a professor.”
— MLB (@MLB) January 22, 2019
Maple Ridge native Larry Walker, a former National League MVP with the Colorado Rockies, was on the ballot for a ninth year. He received 54.6 per cent of the vote, a significant jump from the 34.1 per cent he received in 2018.
Rivera become baseball’s first unanimous Hall of Fame selection, receiving all 425 votes in balloting. The quartet will be enshrined in Cooperstown along with Today’s Game Era Committee selections Harold Baines and Lee Smith on July 21.
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press