Halladay hall of fame speech hits all the right notes

Halladay hall of fame speech hits all the right notes

The baseball community already knew a lot about Roy Halladay. The two-time Cy Young Award winner, the eight-time all-star and undeniably one of the top pitchers of his era. On Sunday afternoon, it got to know more about Brandy.

The wife of the late Roy Halladay displayed incredible courage and strength while speaking on behalf of her husband at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y. Brandy was given the almost impossible task of reflecting on the career of a man who couldn’t do it himself after passing away during a tragic plane crash in November of 2017.

The ceremony felt like part celebration and part memorial. No one would have blamed Brandy if the moment became too much for her. After all, this was a day they were supposed to share together just like they did when Halladay was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame a few months before his passing. She rose to the occasion.

“This is not my speech to give,” a visibly emotional Brandy said at the start while attempting to fight back tears. “I am going to do the best I can to say the things that I believe Roy might have said, or would have wanted to say, if he was here.”

This was the kind of day that Brandy never would have missed, and yet one can’t help but think what she was going through when she sat down to write the speech. It’s difficult to fathom the poise it would take to get through the approximately 10-minute address in front of thousands of people, while countless others watch from home.

As emotional as the day felt, the way the Halladay family approached the induction was fitting. Publicly, Roy was known for his workmanlike approach, deeply private and introverted, often misunderstood. So much skill and such an impressive work ethic that people called him a robot. Brandy often was the one left to show the human side.

There’s a reason why she is the most recognizable wife of a Blue Jays player to ever come through this city. Roy had an impact on Toronto and so did she. The food drives, the Doc’s Box program for sick children, the frequent public appearances. Brandy was often the one relaying how much the organization and fans meant to their family.

The public comments always came across as genuine, never forced. Brandy wasn’t interested in stealing the spotlight, she just wanted people to see the Roy that she saw. The human, not the cyborg he was often perceived to be. Toronto always knew that about her. On Sunday, the rest of the baseball world got to see it too.

Brandy even found a way to address the elephant in the room, Halladay’s off-the-field issues, in the most appropriate of ways. A recent profile by Sports Illustrated outlined how Halladay went to rehab for a drug called lorazepam, which is used to treat anxiety disorders and insomnia. A toxicology report from January of 2018 previously showed that Halladay had amphetamines in his system when the aircraft he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.

The issue of prescription pills and whatever demons Halladay was facing didn’t have to be mentioned, and technically it wasn’t spoken about directly, but Brandy found a perfect way to describe what her husband was going through, in a way that can still inspire others.

“I think Roy would want everyone to know that people are not perfect,” Brandy said. “We are all imperfect and flawed in one way or the other. We all struggle but with hard work, humility and dedication, imperfect people can still have perfect moments.

“Roy was blessed in his life, and in his career, to have some perfect moments, but I believe they were only possible because of the man he strived to be, the teammate he was and the people he was so blessed to be on the field with.”

Initially there was disappointment from some Blue Jays fans when it was announced that Halladay would enter the hall without a logo on his cap. The initial expectation was that Halladay would join Roberto Alomar as the only players inducted as Blue Jays. They pointed to previous interviews where Halladay expressed his desire to go in representing Toronto.

The Halladay family decided to go in a different direction. That is their choice to make, not ours. It’s a choice that should be respected, not debated. Deep down it’s also a stance that people should understand because it’s not the first time Halladay’s legacy has been shared between two cities. Halladay became a star in Toronto but it’s undeniable that some of the top moments of his career, the best moments of his life, came in a Phillies uniform.

Before Philadelphia there weren’t even meaningful games in September, let alone October. That’s why Halladay was one of the first professional athletes to be embraced on his way out of this city. Hardly anyone blamed him for wanting out. He put in his time, did everything he could to help the organization and the fact that the Blue Jays failed him time and time again meant almost everyone understood why he had to go somewhere else.

Two contract extensions, both signed below market value, buy you that kind of loyalty from fans. So does the continued dominance year after year. It was a privilege for reporters and fans alike in this city, and this country, to watch one of the game’s best go to work every five days. If winning couldn’t happen in Toronto, everyone involved wanted to make sure it happened somewhere else.

“When Braden, Ryan and I decided that Roy would be inducted into the hall of fame with no logo on his hat, both teams quickly reached out to us telling us how proud they were of that decision,” Brandy said. “Validating the choice, that we knew in our hearts was right, was in fact the correct one.

“We know without a doubt had Roy been with us here today this would have been the decision he would have made, and more than anything he would want both organizations to know that they hold a huge place in our heart and always will.”

Gregor Chisholm is a Toronto-based baseball columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @GregorChisholm or reach him via email: gchisholm@thestar.ca

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