“Imperfect people can have perfect moments.” ~ Brandy Halladay
It may not have been to the level of the eight-part series “The Last Dance” on Michael Jordan’s career and the 1998 Chicago Bulls, but ESPN’s “Imperfect: The Roy Halladay Story” was something for baseball fans, albeit a bleak depiction of the superb starting pitcher.
The E:60 series’ one-hour documentary spent a majority of time focusing on Halladay’s struggles during retirement and unfortunate death than on his playing career and life as a father, husband and family member.
Posthumously-elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to the Baseball Hall of Fame following a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico, much has already been revealed about the events in 2017 that ended his life at the age of 40.
Several details contained in “Imperfect” may be unfamiliar to some fans of the Colorado product. For others, new details will help give better context about the man who won the Cy Young Award in both leagues.
After being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 1995 MLB Draft out of Arvada West High School, Halladay followed a very productive rookie season in 1999 with a horrible backslide in 2000.
Across 13 starts that year, his 10.64 ERA remains the highest of any pitcher with at least 67 innings pitched.
Halladay went back to the drawing board and, beginning in 2002, he would re-emerge as the ace known as “Doc.” For the next decade (2002-11), he topped all pitchers in wins, complete games and shutouts.
While Halladay spent four seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and is remembered for leading the club to the playoffs in 2010-11, his perfect game against the Florida Marlins on May 29, 2010 came in just his 11th start with the organization.
Playoffs & Pain
At some point during the 2011 National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Halladay’s back popped, but he pitched through the pain. In total, he tossed 16.0 innings to a 2.25 ERA across to starts, losing Game 5 at home to former teammate Chris Carpenter.
Injury or not, he couldn’t stop playing. Offseason physical therapy was not enough, so he began taking prescription opioids early in 2012.
Due to Halladay’s relentless ferocity on the mound, the physical abuse on his body caused him to shrink three inches due to the compression in his spine.
Teammates Were Aware
Former Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick was a close friend of Halladay when the star hurler was dealt to the Phillies before the 2010 season.
Around 2012, Kendrick noticed something was wrong. He and another teammate voiced their concerns to a club official about Halladay.
Kendrick thought Halladay might need help. The teammate confronted Halladay, but the problem persisted.
While the medication helped Halladay get through the physical demands of playing professionally, his body became dependent on the medication even as he stepped away from the game.
In October 2013, Halladay checked into a drug treatment facility for his opioid addiction. Someone snuck a phone into the facility and he grew worried his world would end, if exposed; he left the facility ahead of schedule and before Brandy thought he was ready.
Halladay went to rehabilitation once again in January of 2015. This time, he did not come home early and the stay lasted three months.
After signing a one-day contract with the Blue Jays to retire from baseball in 2013, every day life grew increasingly harder for Halladay.
For the man who expected to be perfect on the field, he struggled for any semblance of normalcy off it.
His weight would fluctuate dramatically and, at one point, he would weigh over 300 pounds. He’d also be diagnosed with having Attention Deficit Disorder, depression and anxiety.
In Spring of 2017, Halladay took a position as an assistant coach with his son Braden’s school, Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater, FL.
The experience would be he second with perfection as the team won the Class 4A state championship during a 30-0 season.
As Brandy explained, “He was able to celebrate with them like he never celebrated himself.”
The tale of the athlete struggling to adjust to life away from sports is one seen quite often. While many adapt along the way and find a happy ending, it’s not always the case for those unable to ask for help.
The phrase “stoic warrior” was used to describe Harry Leroy Halladay and this attribute was precisely what caused him to be a tragic figure once he stepped off the diamond.
Local area scout Ed Henderson received a special invitation to the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame inductions as a close friend of the Halladay family and spoke eloquently about the ordeal.
“(Roy) was a great pitcher, but he was an even better human being. I was very glad for him and his family that that talent and character of human being got recognized for who they are.”