“It’s a sad day. Terrible day.”
That’s how Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons reacted to Tuesday’s news that retired MLB pitcher and longtime Blue Jays and Phillies fan favourite Roy Halladay had died in a plane crash at age 40.
“It’s just a sad day for everybody that knew him and even those that were just fans of him that didn’t know him,” Gibbons told Tim and Sid less than an hour after the Pasco Sheriff’s office confirmed the news of his death.
Gibbons first joined the Blue Jays organization as a coach during the 2002 season, the first of eight career all-star campaigns from Halladay.
“I got to watch him first hand. He would just show up every day and do his job,” Gibbons said. “Not a lot of fanfare. Roy didn’t talk a lot. He was very quiet. It was all business and it was a pleasure to watch. It really was.”
When Gibbons took over as the team’s manager in 2004 he could rely on the man they called “Doc” to perform at an elite level on a nightly basis.
“He was always one guy you could always count on,” Gibbons said. “He was just going to go out and do his job good, bad, or ugly and most of the time it was good. You could really appreciate the professionalism and the quality of the individual. He never complained, even if you took him out of a game that he maybe thought he should’ve stayed in. He always had great respect for everybody around him.
“He was really not only a great pitcher but a wonderful human being.”
Among his many notable accomplishments, Halladay is one of only six pitchers to win a Cy Young Award in both the American League and National League.
“Very few guys could pull that off,” Gibbons said. “Very few ever have. You’ve got to be in that elite class. You really have to be dominant. One thing about Roy, he had his ups and downs no doubt early on in his career. He was shipped all the way down to A-ball really to reinvent himself and then he came back and turned into one of the top pitchers in the game.
“To be able to switch leagues and to dominate. That is so rare.”
Halladay, named the No. 3 greatest Blue Jays player of all time earlier this year, will unquestionably be remembered for his heroics on the mound but it’s his many philanthropic endeavours away from the game that will cement his legacy as one of baseball’s most admirable stars.
“Doc was a different cat,” Gibbons added. “In professional sports there’s so much attention thrown on you. Everybody and their brother is willing to do everything for you but there are certain guys, they feel it’s their obligation to give back to the community and give back what everybody’s given them. They don’t all do that but Roy was always was willing to do those kinds of things. He didn’t want the fanfare — I think he was uncomfortable with it — and so I know he did a lot of things [for] people he didn’t really even know about but felt it was his obligation. Just what his heart told him to do.
“He was a pleasure to know, a pleasure to manage and we all feel for his family right now and we all feel special we had some time with him in this lifetime.”