RIP, Baseball Great Roy Halladay, Who Once Pitched a Perfect Game in Miami

There was a brief and, for Philadelphia residents, all-too-rare moment when major talents actually wanted to play for the Phillies. Typically, nobody wants to play for the Phillies, who have lost more games than any other major-league sports franchise. Most years, the team plays to crowds so empty you can play frisbee in the upper-level deck. Marlins fans can relate.

So when Roy Halladay, arguably the greatest pitching talent of the 2000s, agreed to play in Philly in 2010, it was difficult to believe the news was real. It was even harder for long-suffering Phillies fans to believe their eyes a few months later when Halladay tossed the 20th perfect game in baseball history, masterfully retiring all 27 Marlins batters at the arena now known as Hard Rock Stadium.

But it is now even harder to believe that Halladay is gone. Today both Major League Baseball and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office have confirmed that Halladay died hours ago after crashing his plane in the Gulf of Mexico, just off Florida's west coast. Details about the crash are still vague, but reports surfaced online hours ago that a small, single-engine plane registered to Halladay had crashed, leaving many baseball fans — especially those from Toronto and Philly — to pray that "Doc" was OK.

Unfortunately, the news turned out to be grim. ESPN reports that Halladay, age 40, received his pilot's license only recently and first tweeted a photo of himself next to the plane, an odd-looking aircraft called an Icon A5, just a month ago. He'd retired from baseball only four years ago. (Worth noting: The Icon A5's lead engineer and test pilot also crashed in the craft and died this past May.)

For those who watched Halladay grow into a star in Toronto, today is a dark day: As a Blue Jay, he won his first Cy Young Award (given to the best pitcher in both the National and American Leagues) and blossomed into the sort of teammate who inspired others around him. He made the All-Star Game eight times.

But the pinnacle of Halladay's career came later, after he agreed to move to Philadelphia in a last-ditch effort to win a World Series before retiring. Sadly, the Phillies weren't able to help Doc snag the ring he wanted, but he still succeeded along the way: He dominated the league during his first year as a Philly, setting a career high in strikeouts, walking just 30 people, ending the year with an astounding 2.44 earned-run average, and pitching both the perfect game and a no-hitter in the first round of the National League playoffs. He easily won his second Cy Young Award and all-but-certainly cemented his status as a future Hall of Famer.

Halladay's perfect game against the Marlins was nothing short of a pitching clinic. Batters confidently hacked at pitches, only for balls to miraculously dip below their bats at the last second. Pitches kissed corners of the strike-zone so precisely it appeared Doc had telekinesis. By the third inning, the Marlins already looked defeated — batters walked up to the plate with slumped, sad shoulders and quickly walked back to their dugout dejected, looking like they'd just been visited by a ghost. He struck out 11 batters. Much of the Phillies' 2008 World Series-winning roster was still intact and gladly vacuumed up any balls that Fish batters haplessly connected with.

The 2010 Marlins weren't an easy out either: The roster included power hitter Dan Uggla, future San Francisco Giants World Series hero Cody Ross, and superstar Hanley Ramirez.

But by the time Marlins catcher Ronny Paulino walked up to the plate with two outs left in the bottom of the ninth, all he had to do was make it to first base to spoil the night. But even that proved impossible: Paulino hit an easy grounder to Phillies third-baseman Juan Castro, who easily tossed the ball to first-baseman Ryan Howard and ended the game. Halladay beamed, shot both hands into the air, and caught Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz in his arms. The rest of the team mobbed them both.

Roy Halladay got more joy out of the game of baseball than almost any other person in history, and never was that fact more apparent than on a warm May day in Miami seven years ago. Rest in peace, Doc.

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