A story about Roy Halladay wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t break your heart a little.
We knew as Blue Jays fans that Doc’s call to the Hall of Fame was certain to stir up bittersweet emotions, but after the announcement was made official, there was enough joy and satisfaction in the moment that we could relax and enjoy the moment as the first Blue Jays drafted and developed by the organization was enshrined.
There’s a very reasonable line of thinking that will tell you that the National Baseball Hall of Fame is a ridiculous institution, and that we simply shouldn’t care. That the amount of time and emotion that we as fans invest in the election process, and all the arguments for and against players is a waste of energy that could be better spent elsewhere.
Take that line of thought to its logical extension, and you may be hard-pressed to explain why any of us spend thousands of hours every year fretting over sport at all.
And yet, these traditions serve to bring baseball fans together in conversation, even if it is to disagree.
Among these conversations, and one that is truly unique to baseball, is which cap will appear on the player’s plaque. None of the other major team sports has this issue, and if you were to attempt to explain to someone who has no particular interest in baseball why this matters, you’d likely spend a long time and be met with quizzical looks in return.
As trivial as the argument may seem, it actually has engendered interesting discussion over the past 20 years, as we see more players enter the Hall after having split their careers between a number of teams. In the abstract, when discussing an Eddie Murray or Bert Blyleven, it makes for an interesting bit of parlor talk. We turn to our phones and parse Baseball Reference and compare how many games a player played with each team, then argue with whom he made the most impact.
It’s not the most profound matter to be considered, but it can make for fun and spirited conversation.
For fans of a team, though, it means something. Maybe it’s about validation, or pride, supposing those two concepts aren’t the same thing. But seeing our team’s logo on that plaque justifies the love that we have for the team, and asserts the importance of our team in this historical setting.
It’s why it was so important to Montreal Expos fans to see Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines with their logo in Cooperstown, and a bit of a let down to see Vladimir Guerrero Sr. sport another logo on his plaque. Maybe it shouldn’t matter, like a lot of things that incite our collective fandom. But it matters deeply.
This is why in those moments on Wednesday evening, when Blue Jays fans found out that Roy Halladay’s plaque would not feature a blue bird logo, it felt like something of a gut punch.
Twenty-four hours prior, I was on Twitter good-naturedly making my case for Halladay’s plaque to feature the unpopular muscled T-Bird logo, completely taking for granted that it was simply a choice between the logos he sported in Toronto. And this wasn’t the first time that I or others had mulled over the notion.
The notion that Doc may be forever memorialized in a Phillies cap seemed like a notion barely worth consideration, though there were a few who were willing to make the case. For that reason, when the word came down that Halladay would sport a blank cap, as per his family’s wishes, the immediate reactive emotion was to feel as though something important had been taken away.
For those of us for whom Roy Halladay mattered, especially in the context of our Blue Jays fandom, one couldn’t help but feel disappointed. It’s the sort of disappointment that may well linger.
And as trivial as the Hall of Fame or the Blue Jays or baseball may be in the grander scheme of the world, that feeling of disappointment is completely legitimate. You don’t need to feel shame about that letdown.
But as fans, we need to put that disappointment in its proper context. While we feel something that would seem to be a deep connection to Roy Halladay, the player, it should be obvious that even the most passionate fan’s connection to the man himself is of little consequence in comparison to what he meant to his family.
It’s not for us to pass judgment on whether this was the right decision, or even to dig up old quotes and clips where Halladay speaks of his desire to be enshrined as a Blue Jay. For his family, who are left to make this decision in his absence, this entire process has infinite levels of meaning beyond what most of us will ever understand.
Because of who Doc was, the Halladay family has been asked to share their grieving in a very public manner over the past year, and they’ve been very generous with fans. They also likely have support systems in place in both cities and with both organizations, and one can’t blame them if they wanted to ensure that neither side felt snubbed.
It’s fair to feel disappointed that Roy Halladay won’t be forever commemorated as a Blue Jay in Cooperstown. Just so long as that disappointment comes well after the feelings of empathy for his family, for whom this moment must feel like something so much deeper than “bittersweet.”