Elliott: Remembering Halladay as Hall of Fame induction approaches

Former Toronto Blue Jays teammate Orlando Hudson says Roy Halladay was the best pitcher he ever played with. Photo: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

Former Toronto Blue Jays teammate Orlando Hudson says Roy Halladay was the best pitcher he ever played with. Photo: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

July 18, 2019

By Bob Elliott

Canadian Baseball Network

Roy Halladay’s competition level? Check.

His composure on the mound? Check.

The action and movement on his pitches. Check.

His willingness to take the ball and not want to give it back until the 27th out. Check.

Sense of humour? Ah ... you’ll probably need further evidence as the strictly-business Halladay is inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on Sunday afternoon.

Well, we have two examples ...

Like in the spring of 2004, we talked to Halladay about being reunited with his mentor Pat Hentgen, who returned to the Blue Jays for the first time in five years.

We sat on a bench in front of their lockers, which were side-by-side, when Halladay said: “My first spring in 1996 I walked in here and they had Erik Hanson, Juan Guzman and Paul Quantrill in the rotation, the first guy that came over and introduced himself was Pat Hentgen.

“He’s the same guy now as he was back in 1996,” said Halladay as he turned and reached into Hentgen’s locker and added “Look, he’s even wearing the same shirt today as he did back then.”

In the spring of 2002, second baseman Orlando Hudson was asked about new general manager J.P. Ricciardi and Hudson replied: “When I first met J.P., I thought, ‘Smooth cat -- smooth-lookin’ cat.’ He looks like a pimp back in his day. He’s a good dude.”

The next day Hudson, going through and 0-for-16 spring, was demoted to minor-league camp.

That day we asked Halladay his opinion on Hudson. He thought before giving his answer: “He is the best teammate I have ever had.”

Good enough. I began to walk away and Halladay added, “And remember I’ve been through the system twice.” That was major-league self-deprecation and big-time humour.

A first rounder in 1995, Halladay made his debut in 1998, after a record-high 10.64 ERA in 2000, the next spring he was demoted by general manager Gord Ash, manager Buck Martinez and pitching coach Mark Connor. Not to triple-A Syracuse, not to double-A Tennessee, but to class-A Dunedin.

“And no ... not because of the cold weather in Syracuse,” Martinez told reporters.

Halladay worked his way back to the majors making all the stops. Again. He went from the rookie-class Gulf Coast Jays, Dunedin, double-A Knoxville and Syracuse on his way up from 1995-2000 and in 2001 was at Dunedin, Tennessee and Syracuse. At Tennessee Halladay and Hudson were together for the first
time.

“We had some long talks in Knoxville man,” Hudson said. “I was telling him he was going to get back ... he was telling me I was going to make it. They sent down (assistant GM) Dave Stewart to work with him, altered his arm slot and the rest was history -- he took off.”

In all, Halladay pitched in 11 games at rookie ball, 41 at class-A, 12 at double-A and 56 at triple-A. So, Halladay was qualified to judge who was and who wasn’t a good teammate in the Jays system.

“Roy was an unbelievable teammate ... the best,” Hudson said at Rogers Centre earlier this month. “A lot of people didn’t get the chance to know him. But he was the definition of a Hall of Famer. He was a prized package. Roy was a blessing from God.”

Besides making over-the-shoulder catches to save runs for Halladay, Hudson said he and Halladay became close on NIKE trips to Hawaii as well as Saint Kitts and Nevis.

“Roy Halladay was a true professional, he studied the game, he knew the game,” Hudson said. “He made everyone better and he demanded perfection.”

On Nov. 7, 2017, Hudson was at home in Atlanta when his former Arizona Diamondbacks teammate INF Augie Ojeda phoned.

“He said, ‘Did you hear about your man?’ I said ‘No,’” said Hudson, “Augie said you better turn on your TV.”

Hudson was crushed when he saw the news that his pal had died in his ICON A5 amphibious plane. Halladay’s father, also named Roy, earned his living as a pilot. At the time of the crash Roy Jr. had logged 700 hours.

“Flying was Roy’s life, he used to bring those model planes in here to fly around,” Hudson said. “Roy asked me to go flying with him. Flying was his father’s life and it was his life too.”

Hudson said Halladay helped him win the first of his four Gold Gloves in 2004.

“Roy threw all those power sinkers to left-handed hitters and they hit a lot of ground balls my way, that was my first Gold Glove,” Hudson recalled.

And on Dec. 27, 2005, Miguel Batista and Hudson were dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Troy Glaus and Sergio Santos.

“I get to Arizona and they had Brandon Webb, he won the Cy Young in 2006 and I won another Gold Glove,” Hudson said. “He was always asking me ‘What would Doc do in this situation?’ Brandon was like a lot of right-handers -- he wanted to be like Roy Halladay.”

In his 11 years in the majors, Hudson won four Gold Gloves 2009 with the Dodgers, 2006-07 with Arizona and in 2005 with the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Ken Griffey asks me to fly with him too, I’m not a big fan of flying in small planes,” Hudson said. “I always tell Junior, you fly your plane. I’ll take Delta.”

Hudson was a teammate of Randy Johnson, Dan Haren and Brabdon Webb with Arizona, Clayton Kershaw with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chris Sale with the San Diego Padres.

“Without a doubt," said Hudson. "The best pitcher I ever played with was Roy Halladay."