Watching Roy Halladay pitch made me feel like a child, even though I wasn’t. That is, watching him pitch gave me the sense of uncontextualized awe that I had otherwise left behind in sports. So many years did I watch him as a Blue Jay mow down my favorite team—he was unhittable, even though, logically, I saw them get the occasional hit off them—and felt like he was throwing on a plane so far above the rest of baseball that even now, I half-disbelieve the statistics. How could he have ever had an ERA over 2.00? I’m sure I never saw him give up more than a single fluke run in any given game. He was myth to me, even as an active player. He was inevitable and unbeatable as a natural disaster. He made me feel like I had as a kid, convinced that superhumans played baseball. I’m not sure I’ll ever know better.
Except Halladay, who died yesterday in Florida at age 40 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting, wasn’t superhuman. Any remembrance you read today from baseball people will mention his work ethic—a Phillies batting practice pitcher recalls finding him in the weight room 10 hours before game time. He worked hard to be great. That was as inspiring to his teammates and opponents as the result was awe-inspiring for me. Not superhuman; just big, strong, smart, and not willing to accept anything less than being as good a pitcher as he could possibly be.
No wonder even his contemporaries looked up to him.
I feel lucky just for having seen Roy Halladay pitch. I’m happy to do my part in the myth-making, though there’s not really that much work to do.