By Bob Ellliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Orlando Hudson was sent down in the spring of 2002 for saying Blue Jays general manager J. P. Riccardi dressed like a “pimp.”
In the midst of a terrible spring Hudson was asked what he thought of Ricciardi. 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 following day Hudson was demoted and became the story of the day. We asked Roy Halladay his opinion of the second baseman.
“Orlando Hudson is the best teammate I’ve ever had, and remember,” Halladay said, with a smile, “I have been through the organization twice. Not many guys can say that.”
* * *
In the spring of 1999 we made the trip to the Englebert Complex to write about a minor leaguer as we would do three times a year when we had two writers there and one went on the road. Standing around the cage a scout said, “Hey you better hurry up if you are going in the clubhouse. In 10 minutes they come out and you won’t able to talk to the players for four hours.”
Quick give me the name of someone in there who will make the majors some day.
“Orlando Hudson,” said scouting director Tim Wilken.
In no time we were trying to keep up with Hudson speaking at 90 miles an hour. In a way Hudson is like Gary Carter or Pete Rose who went before him. Just throw a question out there and maybe eight minutes later he will take a breath. Sometimes we think that when quoting Hudson, who speaks with the zeal of an evangelist, it is a disservice to put space marks between the words. He seldom pauses.
Hudson was a 33rd round pick from Spartanburg Methodist College and man could he talk. Wilken was right as usual: Hudson played 11 years in the majors with the Blue Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.
* * *
Reached Saturday afternoon during lunch in Atlanta, Hudson was in a restaurant. Hudson was asked to call back.
“No, no, no, let me go outside,” Hudson said. He was told Halladay’s description of him.
“Ah, that’s the good doctor, we respected each other. Guess he saw the passion in when I played. When I pitched I wanted all the ground balls come to me. I was greedy ... I wanted all 27 outs.”
Hudson said Halladay is the best pitcher he has ever played behind with former Cy Young award winner Brandon Webb and Dan Haren Nos. 2 and 3.
“And if we phoned Brandon Webb and Dan Haren right now, neither one of them would be offended,” said Hudson.
“I played behind a lot of great pitchers, but when you are talking about Roy Halladay, you are talking about an animal, when you are talking about Roy Halladay you are talking about a man who could pitch, when you are talking about Roy Halladay, you are talking about a lovable teammate, when you are talking about Roy Halladay, you are talking about a god fearing man, when you are talking about Roy Halladay, you are talking about a humble man. He took a baseball and dominated. He set standards.”
Hudson told how studious Halladay was, how he would stand in a cold tub of water to loosen himself up, how he would run the whole stadium, would power lift and throw his side like he was pitching nine innings.
Hudson said during his playing days he watched hitters timidly step into the box against Halladay. Or how the opposing manager would not send the lineup over until the last minute.
“Pitchers today should examine how he Roy Halladay pitched and worked. God wanted him to go nine. He was the face of how to play,” Hudson said. “He was not a five and dive. If he had 110 pitches, after eight, he still wanted to go out for the ninth. I love Chris Sale, I love Clayton Kershaw. Those guys wanted to go longer than five.
Name any list of good pitchers, go ahead, but you can’t leave Roy Halladay off,” Hudson said.
Hudson is not the first to make the claim that Halladay belongs in the Hall of Fame saying “You put Roy Halladay in the same sentence as Bob Gibson, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe.”
As Bill Deane points out
HIGHEST CAREER NWP, 1900-2017 (Min. 200 Wins)
Pitcher W L NWP
Pedro Martinez 219 100 .663
Roy Halladay 203 105 .661
Randy Johnson 303 166 .650
Lefty Grove 300 141 .643
Roger Clemens 354 184 .642
Grover Alexander 373 208 .640
Whitey Ford 236 106 .630
Walter Johnson 417 279 .629
Cy Young 511 316 .621
Christy Mathewson 373 188 .616
Tom Seaver 311 205 .614
Curt Schilling 216 146 .603
Mike Mussina 270 153 .602
Juan Marichal 243 142 .601
Pitcher SO BB RATIO
Curt Schilling 3116 711 4.38
Clayton Kershaw 2120 507 4.18
Pedro Martinez 3154 760 4.15
Dan Haren 2013 500 4.03
Max Scherzer 2149 534 4.02
Zack Greinke 2236 594 3.76
Mike Mussina 2813 785 3.58
Roy Halladay 2117 592 3.58
Cole Hamels 2227 645 3.45
Greg Maddux 3371 999 3.37
MOST CY YOUNG AWARD SHARES, 1956-2016
7.65 Roger Clemens
6.49 Randy Johnson
4.91 Greg Maddux
4.29 Steve Carlton
4.26 Pedro Martinez
3.96 Clayton Kershaw
3.84 Tom Seaver
3.57 Jim Palmer
3.50 Roy Halladay
3.15 Tom Glavine
* * *
Former Philadelphia Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer was at home on Saturday Hagerstown, Md. three days before the plane went down.
Billmeyer caught every bullpen that superstitious closer Brad Lidge threw in winning the 2008 Rolaids Relief award. Lidge went 41-for-41 in the regular season and was 7-for-7 in post season. As a thank you Lidge gave him a Rolex watch.
Halladay pitched a perfect game against the Florida Marlins May 29, 2010 in Miami. Hallladay bought 60 Baume Mercier watches for whomever was there: catcher Carlos Ruiz, the rest of the 25-man roster, manager Charlie Manuel, the coaching staff and training staff.
His mother Carole told him it was time to put his 2008 World Series ring “in a safe on Monday and you need to wind those watches.”
So, Billmeyer went to the jewelry store on Monday and Tuesday he received the news. A text from former catcher Todd Greene and then turned on the TV. A day after he had the time set on the watch Halladay gave him, he was watching news of his friend. He described it as “kind of eerie.”
Billmeyer liked catching Halladay, the perfectionist, because “his control was so good.”
“He was always prepared and usually dominant on the mound,” Billmeyer said.
One of Halladay’s best friends was Skeet Reese, a professional angler. So one morning Reese showed up with the camera crew from his TV show. Halladay was on the half field at Bright House Field and Billmeyer squatted 60 feet, six inches away. And in jumped Reese into the right-handed batter’s box with a bat as hitters often do when pitchers throw a side session. Except ...
“Roy throws an inside cutter front door, and here Reese takes a swing,” Billmeyer said. “The ball hit our Canadian -- Phillippe Aumont -- leaning against the screen. Once we found his arm was OK, it was a good laugh. Roy laughed the hardest at Skeet.”
* * *
There were 55 high schoolers at the Rogers Centre for the Mizuno Camp when to their wondrous eyes appeared: Roy Halladay.
We spoke to 17 and 11 were Halladay fans ... like LHP Brian Bardis (St. Constant, Que.), RHP Mike Ellis (Surrey, BC), RHP Dakota Fedak (Regina, Sask.), LHP Austin Huibers (Waterdown, Ont.), RHP Bruce Lombard (Oakville, Ont.), LHP Brody McDonald (Cornwall, PEI), RHP Steve McKinnon (Duncan, BC), LHP Paul Schaak (Winkler, Man.), OF Cody Shrider (Dartmouth, N.S.), 3B Grant Vincent (Corner Brook, Nfld.) and OF Shane Zimmer (St. Albert, Alta.).
Elllis: “Roy Halladay. As a right-hander I look up to him. He sets up hitters very well. You can see the determination on his face. Listening to (pitching coach) Brad Arnsberg talk to him was very inspiring. Arnsberg told us how A.J. Burnett tried to do Halladay’s program and quit half-way through.”
Fedak: “Roy Halladay. I got meet him in the bullpen when he came down to do his bullpen. It was pretty amazing. We got ask questions about his routine. He signed a baseball for us. I got it in my cupboard in my bedroom.”
Lombard: “Roy Halladay because of his work ethic on an off the field. Brad Arnsberg told us all about his work routine and how he is an idol to guys who pitch for the Blue Jays.”
McDonald: “Roy Halladay, I like his attitude, he’s very serious on the mound and he has a great work ethic.”
McKinnon: “My favorites are Roy Halladay and Jason Bay. Halladay because he’s a great pitcher and it is good to watch someone that plays the same position. It’s cool to see a Canadian like Bay doing as well as he is doing and hoping you will be like that someday.”
Schaak: “Roy Halladay. He's so good the way he spots all his pitches and because he’s such hard worker. We saw him throw a bullpen the last day, he signed some things and talked to us -- that was really cool.”
Huibers: “Playing on the field at the Rogers Centre and being able to throw a bullpen next to Roy Halladay in the Rogers Centre bullpen.”
Schaak: “Being on the field at Rogers Centre and seeing Halladay, that was awesome.”
Schrider: “Roy Halladay came down and threw a bullpen when I was in left field.”
Vincent: “When Roy Halladay came the last day to throw bullpen.”
Zimmer: “I’ve seen the Detroit Tigers play the Colorado Rockies before, but seeing games at the Rogers Centre and then taking batting practice was quite a thrill. I was standing in centre and turned around after a out and saw Roy Halladay running poles. I also got the last hit of the game -- that was something I will remember.”
No. 1 thing learned
Bardis: “Roy Halladay’s. Day 1 is a start day, Day 2 he pitches again, runs and does weights. Day 3 he was throwing again and working on his legs and shoulder. Day 4 was a bullpen and some conditioning and Day 5 he would start again.”
Ellis: “What I found fascinating was learning about Halladay’s five-day starting rotation and how he does legs after he pitches. I’m trying to incorporate that in what I do. Guys on my team -- Brooklyn Foster, Rory Young, Zak Miller -- went last year and told me Halladay was likely to show up. So I took my Roy Halladay jersey to the park and kept it in my bag every day. Guys were giving him bats and balls to sign. I pulled out the Halladay jersey and he said, ‘Wow, you came prepared, didn’t you?'”
So many memories for so many players, for so many fans from coast to coast.
* * *
There is a direct pipe line from Denver to Toronto.
Bob Engle caught two seasons for the Mesa College Mavericks in Grand Junction, Col. He hit .358, was named to the ALL-JUCO Tournament First Team as the Mavericks won the JUCO National championship game in 1970. Pitching instructor Bus Campbell talked Engle into going to the University of Colorado in Boulder to play for coach Irv Brown. Campbell was the pitching coach.
Campbell, who loved baseball so much he gave pitching lessons for free, lived most of his life in the Denver suburb of Littleton. His friend Wilbur (Moose) Johnson lived nearby in Arvada and the two were friends: Campbell getting pitchers ready for the pros and Johnson scouting the state first for the Philadelphia Phillies and then the Jays.
Johnson worked for scouting director Engle and we’ve heard this routine many times:
Engle: “Moose, how could you not draft me ... you missed me two years in a June and January drafts and another year in June.”
Johnson: “You hit like you were swinging a sword, besides I knew you were going to the big leagues in a different way.”
Halladay took pitching lessons from Campbell from age 13 until the day he was drafted in the first round (17th overall) in from Arvada West High in Arvada.
In 1999, Engle was inducted into the Colorado Mesa University honour roll. Brandy and Roy Halladay showed at the banquet. Engle said "I'm soo happy we got Bus a World Series ring in 1993."
Then, Campbell began working with Braden Halladay. And in the spring of 2008 both Halladay and Johnson flew from Tampa to Denver to speak at Campbell’s funeral.
“Roy did well, I was awful,” Engle said.
“Bob spoke well, I was terrible,” Halladay said inside the Mattick clubhouse.
* * *
In 1997 RHP Jason Dickson (Chatham, N.B.) finished third in the American League rookie of the year voting behind Nomar Garciaparra and Jose Cruz.
In 1998, RHP Roy Halladay came with an out of a no-hitter in his second start.
And now the two were sharing a “old beater” grey truck and a room in Sevierville, Tenn. (Pop: 16,000).
Oh, and they were also sharing a spot in the rotation with the double-A Tennessee Smokies.
Dickson and Halladay got to know each other when they began the season in Dunedin and “partnered up” when they reached the Knoxville suburbs.
“We’d both been to the big leagues,” Dickson said, “at that stage of our careers you’re working through things, you are not at the top of your game. It allowed for some different conversations.
“There were a few times the question was asked ‘how am I doing this?' It wasn’t not misery loves company.”
After each made five starts at Knoxville, both were promoted to Syracuse. Halladay made two starts and was back in the majors July 2 allowing six runs in 2 1/3 innings after Esteban Loaiza retired only one allowing five in a 16-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Dickson made 11 starts and was promoted to Toronto by GM Gord Ash, but was not activated. Dickson pitched for two more years before getting involved in amateur baseball. He is now president of Baseball Canada and Halladay gave him that broad, yet rare, smile of his at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in St. Marys.
Now living back home in New Brunswick, Dickson heard the news on Tuesday via Twitter and read the news feed.
“I was in shock, you get that feeling in your stomach,” Dickson said. “The first thing you thing of are his kids -- they are roughly the age at mine. His boys -- Braden and Ryan -- are 16 and 12. My girls -- Alex and Ava -- are 15 and 12. I thought ‘imagine what his family are going through’ then I thought of myself and my girls.
“It was disbelief, you have that feeling it didn’t happen, He never gave up on working hard. I owe him more than he owed me.”
* * *
Dickson recalls the first day he and Halladay played catch with Knoxville. Combined they had pitched in 110 major league games (Dickson going 26-25 with a 4.99 ERA, Halladay 13-14, 5.77 ERA), working 628 innings and striking out 443.
Second baseman Hudson was in his fourth season of pro ball.
“I can hit you,” he said to Dickson pointing his finger.
“And I can hit you Good Doctor,” he said waving his finger at Halladay.
Halladay and Dickson would tease Hudson after any game he went hitless.
Hudson said some people may not appreciate Halladay’s dominance until “looking up clips on TSN, ESPN or FSN.” Hudson said Halladay wasn’t “glamour or glitz.”
“We hugged at the end of a complete game, at the end of the season, he had so much respect for me.”
So could Hudson hit Halladay?
“I had one hit the first time I faced him, then nothing,” Hudson said.
As a Minnesota Twin, Hudson singled in his first at-bat against Halladay June 20, 2010, when Halladay was with the Phillies. He fanned five times in 10 at-bats.
Any time they’d see each other after a game Hudson would say the same thing to Halladay: “I showed you, I showed you, I showed you I could hit you my first AB ... now I’m trying to just help your Hall of Fame numbers.”
And they would hug, one 6-foot-6 pitcher from Colorado, one wiry infielder from South Carolina.
* * *
This was the routine when the Blue Jays were at home and Halladay was starting.
Hudson would stop at take out, bring fried chicken into the clubhouse pull up his chair and sit near Halladay’s locker, Usually it was from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.
“The Good Doctor would look at me and say ‘O! You’re going to get fat eating fried food,’ and I’d say ‘Good Doctor what do you want me to do? I love fried food. What’s a brother to do when he is 18,000 miles away from home and he can’t find any southern cooking.'”
The two would laugh and talk. Hudson eventually kicked eating fried chicken.
So, where was he Tuesday afternoon when he heard the news?
“I haven't been there in years but I was in the drive-thru line at Popeyes chicken when Augie Ojeda (former major league infielder) called and said ‘O did you hear about your boy?’ I said ‘is the Good Doctor sick?’ And then he told me. It was cold in Atlanta, but it felt like a heat wave in the car ... I hung up.”
Hudson pulled out of line and stayed in the parking lot. He called his mother saying “momma tell me that they got it wrong.”
Then, his phone exploded "did you hear about your boy?”
“To me Roy Halladay was bigger than Superman," said Hudson who sat in the parking lot a long time. Eventually, he looked out the window to the heavens.
“Good Lord, I trust you, I believe in you, I know you have a plan, but why Lord?” Hudson said. “He was doing something he loved. He was not bothering anybody. All he wanted was to raise his boys and fly his plane.”