Camden Courier-Post via AP/File
PHILADELPHIA — A fierce competitor on the mound, Roy Halladay was generous and gentle away from the field.
The eight-time All-Star loved his family, baseball, and flying.
His passion for piloting cost him his life Tuesday when his private plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He was 40.
The crash was reported to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office by a resident at 12:06 p.m., and when law enforcement arrived on the scene, the plane, an ICON A5 registered to Mr. Halladay, was upside down in shallow water.
Sheriff Chris Nocco reported that Mr. Halladay had been the only person on the plane, adding that the specifics of the crash were under investigation.
A winner of a Cy Young Award in each league, Mr. Halladay was a 6-foot-6 right-hander known for his durability and command. He led the league in innings four times; over his career, he completed 67 games.
After 12 major league seasons with the Blue Jays, who drafted him in 1995, Mr. Halladay sought to pitch in the postseason for the first time. He helped clear the way for a trade that sent him to the Phillies for catcher Travis d’Arnaud, right-hander Kyle Drabek, and outfielder Michael Taylor. He played four more seasons before a bad back forced him into retirement.
Former teammates, opponents, and coaches on Wednesday mourned the sudden loss of the beloved former player. Nearly every memory began with a story about Mr. Halladay’s legendary workout program and his early morning routine.
Second-baseman Chase Utley recalled his introduction to Mr. Halladay at the Phillies’ practice complex in Clearwater, Fla., in 2010.
‘‘My heart hurts writing this,’’ Utley wrote on Instagram. ‘‘I can still remember the first day we met. It was 5:45 a.m. on the first day of spring training when I arrived. He was finishing his breakfast but his clothes were soaking wet. I asked if it was raining when he got in. He laughed and said ‘No I just finished my workout.’ I knew right then — he was the real deal.’’
Former teammate Cole Hamels, now a Texas Rangers ace, joined Phillies chairman David Montgomery at Philadelphia’s ballpark to remember Mr. Halladay. Fans left pictures, candles, and notes at the stadium to honor Mr. Halladay.
‘‘Behind everything he did, he had a purpose,’’ Hamels said. ‘‘I think you come to realize that you have very small, short moments in life to do something great so you have to maximize it. You have to make the best of it. And he did. He made us push to a level that sometimes you didn’t think you could actually reach. He made everybody better.’’
Mr. Halladay would make his first year with the Phillies his career year, going 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA. He threw the 20th perfect game in Major League history during the regular season, and in a division playoff series against Cincinnati, he threw the second no-hitter in postseason history.
After the postseason no-hitter, Dusty Baker, then the Reds’ manager and a fixture in baseball dating to the late 1960s, said, “That is the best-pitched game I’ve seen since I’ve been going to the playoffs and the World Series.”
One of the strongest messages of condolence came from Pedro Martinez, the three-time Cy Young Award winner whose prime coincided with Mr. Halladay’s. “I can’t believe it,” the former Red Sox ace wrote on Twitter. “So many times we competed against each other and even while competing, I wanted to see you!”
Fellow pitcher Brandon McCarthy of the Los Angeles Dodgers said, simply: “Roy Halladay was your favorite player’s favorite player.’’
Based on his retirement date, Mr. Halladay will not be eligible for election to baseball’s Hall of Fame until 2019, but he will have a strong case because of his dominance in his strongest seasons. His career record of 203-105 and his 2,117 career strikeouts are not eye-popping numbers, but using the JAWS system — an evaluation tool that accounts for a player’s peak seasons as well as his overall career — Mr. Halladay is ranked as baseball’s 42nd-best starting pitcher. Only nine players ahead of him are not yet in the Hall of Fame, while more than 30 players below him on the list are enshrined in Cooperstown. His postseason success and his popularity with the media also bolster his case.
Shortly after he retired, Mr. Halladay discussed how odd it felt not to play baseball.
“I find myself kind of sitting around the house thinking, ‘There’s something missing here — I should be working out, I should be running, I should be doing something,’” he said. “For a second, it’s kind of a little bit of panic, and then it kind of sets in: ‘OK, that’s right. I’m retiring now.’ It’s actually a very peaceful feeling.”
He eventually turned to flying as an outlet.
Mr. Halladay, whose father was a pilot, knew the risks that flying presented. He joked about his wife’s opposition to his purchasing a plane in a video that had been posted to YouTube by ICON in October but that was removed shortly after the crash.
“She’s fought me the whole way,” Mr. Halladay said of his wife, Brandy, in the video.
Piloting small planes has long been popular among athletes, and Major League Baseball has lost other athletes to similar crashes. Thurman Munson, an All-Star catcher and the 10th captain of the New York Yankees, died after crashing a Cessna Citation in 1979. And Cory Lidle, a former teammate of Mr. Halladay’s on the 2003 Blue Jays, died in 2006 when a Cirrus SR20 he was flying with a co-pilot crashed into an apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
The fact that the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office led Tuesday’s recovery effort carried extra emotion because of Mr. Halladay’s personal relationship with the department, which included the donation of a police dog that the department named Doc, in reference to Mr. Halladay’s nickname.
“You wouldn’t know what Roy did because Roy wouldn’t tell you what he did,” Nocco said. “And that’s the legacy of a great man.”
In addition to his wife, Mr. Halladay leaves two sons, Ryan and Braden.
‘‘All-Star pitcher. All-Star person. All-Star father and family man,’’ Montgomery said.
Mr. Halladay served as a guest instructor with the Phillies in spring training and had his own office at the complex. He enjoyed working with the organization’s young players on the mental aspects of baseball.
‘‘He certainly would have given more to baseball in the future because of his love for the game,’’ Montgomery said. ‘‘But his commitment to his family kept him where he was the last few years. We’d had a number of conversations about his potential future in the game. But he just would say, ‘I want it, but it’s on hold. It’s on hold right now because of my family.'’’
Mr. Halladay was the pitching coach at Calvary Christian High School.
For all of his personal accomplishments, Mr. Halladay always put the team first and shared the credit. He gave all of his teammates and members of the organization a luxury watch to commemorate his perfect game and had a special bond with former Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz.
‘‘Roy was one of the greatest pitchers I ever caught, and an even better person and friend,’’ Ruiz said. ‘‘I wanted to win more for him than myself. I will miss him very much. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones and all those, like me, who truly admired him.’’
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