Major League Baseball immortalized six former players on Sunday with inductions into the Hall-of-Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Five of the inductees, Mike Mussina, Harold Baines, Edgar Martinez, Lee Smith and Mariano Rivera, delivered emotional speeches on their own behalf. But the speech by Brandy Halladay, widow of the late Roy Halladay, stood out as the most powerful.
Roy Halladay was one of baseball’s most feared starting pitchers for the majority of his 15-year career with the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies. He is one of just six pitchers to earn the Cy Young Award in both the American and National Leagues (Gaylord Perry, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and Max Scherzer).
In November of 2017, the baseball world was stunned to learn Halladay had crashed his private plane in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. He was 40.
Brandy Halladay informed the crowd that it was not her speech to give, but she would try to do her husband’s memory justice. She succeeded.
Brandy explained the family’s decision to depict Roy with a blank hat on his plaque. Typically, each Hall-of-Famer who has played for more than one team has to decide which logo their image will be immortalized with in Cooperstown.
It is hard to say which logo Halladay might have chosen if the circumstances were different and he was still here. On one hand, he spent his first 11 seasons with Toronto and compiled most of his accolades as a Blue Jay. However, those 11 seasons occurred at the end of a 22-year playoff drought for the Jays and kept Halladay off of baseball’s biggest stage during his prime.
He then spent four seasons in Philadelphia and accomplished his career-defining moment in a Phillies uniform. In game one of the 2010 National League Division Series, Halladay became just the second pitcher in the history of baseball to toss a no-hitter in the postseason (Don Larsen, 1956 World Series) in a 4-0 triumph over the Cincinnati Reds. It was a long wait for his first career playoff appearance and he did not disappoint.
The performance also made Halladay the first pitcher to throw two no-hitters in a single season since Nolan Ryan did it in 1973. He is one of just seven men to have thrown both a perfect game and a no-hitter in his career (Cy Young, Addie Joss, Jim Burning, Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson and Mark Buehrle).
Despite finally having a chance to compete in the postseason, the Phillies would never advance past the National League Championship Series with Halladay on the roster.
Brandy explained that both organizations meant too much to the family to choose one over the other. This likely had to do with the support shown by each team in the tragedy’s aftermath.
The Blue Jays retired Halladay’s number 32 following his death.
The Phillies retired Halladay’s number 34 for the 2018 season. Bryce Harper, who was signed by Philadelphia last offseason and wore the same number as a member of the Nationals, announced that he would instead wear number 3 on the Phillies. He also stated his belief that the number 34 should not be worn again in the organization.
In fitting fashion, Mariano Rivera closed out the ceremony.
In short, Rivera is the greatest closer to ever live. This fact is hardly debatable. Aside from recording over 650 saves in his career, Rivera’s postseason ERA with the New York Yankees begins with a zero.
A player must receive 75 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in order to qualify for the Hall-of-Fame. Rivera became the first player in history to receive 100 percent of the vote.
Despite the fact that each appearance typically only lasted three outs, Rivera’s name was as popular as Derek Jeter’s during his time in the Bronx. He won five World Series titles as a member of the Yankees, including a three-peat from 1998-2000. The Yankees were the first team to win three straight titles since the Oakland Athletics (1972-74) and remain the last organization to accomplish this feat.
Rivera added a dose of humor to his speech by wondering aloud why he always had to go last. He also apologized to his son for missing so many of his birthdays over the years.
His son was born in October.
It still seems like yesterday when longtime teammates Jeter and Andy Pettitte walked out to the mound at Yankee Stadium together to take Rivera out of the game one last time. As a baseball fan outside of New York, I have always felt a tinge of hatred for the Bronx Bombers (okay, maybe it was jealousy).
However, as I take a step back after the fact, it is easier to appreciate some of the greatness I was fortunate enough to witness firsthand. Rivera personified the dominance of the Yankees as much as any individual not named Jeter could. He was the last guy to beat you, and he did it better than anyone ever has or likely ever will.
The game is changing today at a rapid pace, some of it for the better and some of it not. It is important to remember those who made us fall in love with the game in the first place and honor the legacies instilled during baseball’s golden age.