Originally published Dec. 9, 2013
“Brother wants some wheels for his pick-up
Sister wants a trip to Cancun
Daddy wants a new set of golf clubs
Mama wants a gold necklace
All I want from Santa is
A genuine cowhide
Rawlings pro special
One autographed by Roy Halladay
If that’s all I’ve got
’Neath the tree Christmas morning
One gift will sure be enough
If I get a new baseball glove.”
— Canadian country music singer Gord Bamford, Baseball Glove
By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Blue Jays fans got their special wish: The return of Roy Halladay.
There he was.
And there he was: Gone.
Halladay signed a one-day, minor-league contract with the Blue Jays so he could retire with the team that drafted him in 1995. He will be available in Thursday’s Rule V draft.
“We might take him, have him fly to Philadelphia and retire as a Phillie on Friday,” Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro said with a twinkle in his eyes.
Jays fans wanted more pitching for this season. With Halladay walking through the lobby of the Disney Dolphin resort at the winter meetings on Monday, there was reason to wonder: Was he going to try a comeback?
One day and done.
His voice cracking through an emotional news conference, Halladay, 36, thanked former coaches, trainers, managers and teammates. He broke down addressing the “front row,” which included his wife Brandy, along with sons Braden, 13, and Ryan, nine.
As his father spoke, Braden sat twirling a medal he had won last weekend playing for the Dunedin Panthers by hitting a walk-off single to beat the rival Tampa Toros to win their end-of-season tournament.
“I’ve only had walk-off hits in video games,” said Braden, who hit a 3-1 pitch up the middle just after his father yelled: “Be a hero.”
“Everyone tackled me and then my father grabbed me up off the ground,” Braden said as mom Brandy added, “I screamed so hard my head hurt.”
Seated at the podium, Halladay — who may take a job with the Jays in the minor-league system and threw his final pitch on Sept. 26 in Miami three batters into the game — had four hats on the table in front of him: The Dunedin Panthers, the Jays, the Phillies and Ryan’s Team Factr (factrbaseball.com), which raises financial relief for families with a child suffering from cancer.
Halladay phoned the Jays 10 days ago with the idea … the way Nomar Garciaparra retired as a Boston Red Sox or Hideki Matsui retired as a New York Yankee.
“As far as the decision to retire … for me, there was a lot of things that came into play. Baseball, there’s a lot of travelling, a lot of time away from family, from loved ones. I thought this was a great time for me to be with his family and be present in his kids’ lives.
“My shoulder feels as good as it ever has, I’ve been playing catch and throwing to my sons — mind you, I can’t get either one of them out,” Halladay said. “The major issue for me is my back really became an issue. It’s made it hard to pitch with the mechanics that I want to pitch with.”
Halladay said his wife wanted to pop champagne before they made the drive over from the Tampa area.
“Baseball has been so great to me,” Halladay said. “My goal is to try to leave baseball better than when I found it. I tried to do that in my career. I tried to be respectful to the game and, moving forward, I’d like to do the same.”
He says that now, sitting around, the panic will set in (“I’m supposed to be running, supposed to be working out”) and then he’ll remember (“I’m retired”).
Halladay walked two of the first three batters he faced in his final outing, throwing five strikes among 16 pitches before manager Ryne Sandberg removed him.
Sandberg was in the crowd for the news conference. As was Gillick, who hired Campbell as a scout when he was Halladay’s personal instructor, along with GMs Gord Ash, J.P. Ricciardi and Alex Anthopoulos.
Too bad they don’t have the Equitable Old Timers games any more. The Jays could roll out former Cy Young Award winners in bullpen coach Pat Hentgen and Halladay.
Halladay made only 13 starts this season with the Phillies. It was four years ago Monday, after the winter meetings in Indianapolis, that Amaro and Anthopoulos began trade talks that saw Halladay spend the final four seasons of his 16-year career in red pinstripes.
Halladay pitched 62 innings this year, earning $20 million, and could have vested his $20-million option for 2014 had he pitched 225 innings this year or 415 in the past two seasons. Arm problems limited Halladay to 2181/3 innings the past two seasons.
Halladay had shoulder surgery on May 15, returning to the mound on Aug. 25.
So who is the fave of the two Halladay boys?
“Well, my father is not retired officially yet,” Ryan said.
Said Braden: “Either Hunter Pence or Wil Myers.”
Halladay retires with a 203-105 (.659 winning mark) and a career 3.38 ERA as he pitched 2,7491/3 innings in 416 games. The workhorse made 390 starts with 67 complete games and 20 shutouts. The Jays received three former No. 1 picks in right-hander Kyle Drabek and catcher Travis D’Arnaud from Philadelphia and first baseman Brett Wallace from the Oakland A’s.
Some argue that Halladay, signed by Bus Campbell and Chris Bourjos, was the greatest pitcher in franchise history. He won the 2003 Cy Young Award with the Jays and repeated the feat in 2010 with the Phillies. He finished in the top three in voting three other times.
Others will say seven-time all-star Dave Stieb, whose best finish in the Cy Young voting was fourth in 1982. From 1982-84, he had the highest WAR rating of any AL pitcher. Stieb won 176 games.
Roger Clemens won back-to-back Cy Youngs and took the triple crown — leading in wins, ERA and strikeouts — in 1997-98.
Yet the guy everyone overlooks is lefty David Wells, who won 239 games, although only 84 with the Jays.
No one will ever overlook or forget Halladay.