Roy Halladay, the two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher who played for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, died Tuesday when the single-engine plane he was piloting crashed off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. He was 40.
Known by the nickname “Doc” for the surgical way he attacked the strike zone, Halladay – born Harry Leroy Halladay III in Denver – began his major-league career in 1998 for the Blue Jays, the team that drafted him in 1995. He won his first Cy Young Award in 2003 and would play 12 of his 16 major-league seasons with the club, before he was traded to Philadelphia in 2009.
Though his time with the Phillies was relatively brief compared to his career in Toronto, he endeared himself to the famously hard-to-impress Philly crowd, who were drawn to Halladay’s tireless work ethic. Early in the 2010 season, he threw a rare perfect game against the Florida Marlins – only the 20th such gem in the history of Major League Baseball – allowing no hits, runs, walks or errors.
That same year, in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds, Halladay tossed a no-hitter, just the second in postseason history. While the Phillies were eliminated from the World Series hunt in the following National League Championship Series – robbing Halladay of his best chance yet to win a title – the pitcher would go on to win the Cy Young Award for a second time. To mark the contribution of his catcher Carlos Ruiz in the victory, Halladay had a second Cy Young trophy commissioned and presented to Ruiz.
Halladay retired from baseball in 2013, signing a one-day contract with Toronto to end his career as a Blue Jay. But he always felt a special kinship to Philadelphia – where he once even surprised a passionate sports blogger by accompanying him to the city’s zoo. Tellingly, when Halladay gingerly returned to baseball as a spring-training guest instructor, he did so not with the Jays, but with the Phillies.
Following his retirement, Halladay learned to fly and often tweeted about his flights, including a recent message about a new plane, the Icon A5 that claimed his life.
“We are numb over the very tragic news about Roy Halladay’s untimely death,” the Phillies said in a statement. “There are no words to describe the sadness that the entire Phillies family is feeling over the loss of one of the most respected human beings to ever play the game.”
Halladay is survived by his wife and two children.