Four-hundred-and-forty-two mornings have passed. A million stories, most of them, hopefully, happy. All of the silly jokes. The pizza nights and high school ballgames and first dates and driver’s tests and two Christmas trees raised, watered and packed up again. How the songs and movies and books and sunsets must have put them back into the family portrait, back those 443 mornings ago.
Today the phone will ring. It will be for him, for Brandy’s husband and Braden and Ryan’s dad, for Roy Sr. and Linda’s son. For him, the friend, the teammate, the man who became one of the best ever at what he did.
Roy Halladay is going to the Hall of Fame by a vote of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He pitched for 16 seasons, was a Cy Young winner in both leagues, threw a no-hitter in a playoff game and won 203 regular-season games. For 10 of those 16 seasons he was the pitcher no batter wanted to face, the artist young pitchers hoped to emulate, the cold competitor other teams wished they had.
He retired at 36, when there was no doubt he’d drawn all he could from his right arm. He went home to his wife and sons in Florida, and four years after that — 443 mornings ago — died in the crash of a plane he piloted.
Halladay is the first player elected posthumously through the BBWAA’s standard process since Rabbit Maranville in 1954, and the sixth ever. (Roberto Clemente was elected in 1973 by special election.)
That’s the baseball part of this, which is fine. There’ll be a day this summer when Roy Halladay will be remembered again and celebrated again for winning all those baseball games, for being kind enough to slip pitching secrets to a new generation of players, for supporting charities that kept children clothed and fed and healthy. Because of that day, perhaps, many like it will follow, when a mom or a dad squats in front of Roy’s plaque and tells the longer version of what big ol’ Roy was able to do with a baseball. What he was able to do with a life.
I don’t know the Halladays. I saw Braden pitch last spring in Dunedin for the Canadian junior national team. He spoke before that game about his father the personal pitching coach, words that morphed a couple hours later into a heartening and delightful recreation of his father’s delivery. He is tall, leaner than a grounds crew rake and even then, at 17, just a boy. Courage was required to have stood before his dad’s old team, before his dad’s fans, and to have taken the ball and attempted his dad’s old job. The sight of it took more than one of us to our shirtsleeves that day.
Today, perhaps, will be a day not unlike that one for the Halladays, when the joy and the mourning, the happy tears and sad tears, run together and in equal measure. One of them will have to pick up the phone, take the call that welcomes their husband or father or son into something special, that should’ve brought his smile and his laugh. His own ambivalent tears.
They will have to do that for him, then accept the cheers for him. Pose for the cameras for him. Speak for him. Carry on for him.
The easy word today is immortality, as if a place in a room in a museum where people go could promise something like that. And maybe that helps ease the ache of his loss, another place that will tell his story, a place besides their hearts.
So, yes, today is meaningful because Roy Halladay was a talented pitcher who should be in the Hall of Fame. When that Sunday in July comes, when they raise a bronze tablet to what Roy looked like and what he did for a good portion of his professional career, it will be deserved and recognized as such. The real legacy of who and what he was will not be found there, however.
Their names are Brandy and Braden and Ryan. They are Roy Sr. and Linda. Roy will live on in a way through this honor, which is good and proper. But first he must live on through them. Through all the days Roy shared with them. Through the moments since he would have loved and all the mornings that have passed.
This is the hard part. The beautiful part. This is where they toast the pitcher he was, the husband he was, the father he was and the son he was. This is where they tell him again they miss him, that we all do.
Today the phone will ring. It’ll be for him.
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