Halladay’s Cooperstown celebration a bittersweet blend of joy and grief

Donnovan Bennett sits down Joe Carter, Jesse Barfield, Orlando Hudson and Ricky Romero and more to discuss their memories of the legendary Roy Halladay.

It could hardly be a Roy Halladay moment for Blue Jays fans if it wasn’t bittersweet.

This weekend should be a moment of celebration for the franchise and its fans. It should be an opportunity to look back at the teams in the early years of this century and acknowledge what a privilege it was to cheer on one of the transcendent aces of the era.

To some extent, these Hall of Fame inductions can act as a validation, where fans are able to have the rest of the baseball world join them to acknowledge the excellence of the player who we always knew was that good all along.

In recent years, Canadian baseball fans have had the opportunity to invest themselves in the recognition of several players from the now-defunct Montreal Expos. While the team is gone, their legacy has lived on through the inductions of Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Pedro Martinez, Tim Raines and Vladimir Guerrero Sr., as well as the continued campaign to recognize Larry Walker, who will come very close to induction in his final year on the ballot.

That there almost always seems to be an Expos angle to the news around Cooperstown, while worthy Jays like Dave Stieb or Carlos Delgado received barely a courtesy nod has felt like an insult.

Because the Hall of Fame, while it is just a building in upstate New York, is also the ultimate validation of a baseball career. It’s a celebration of the player, but also of our fandom, and of the joy that the game brings us. But with Roy Halladay, it’s never that easy.

It should be noted that in the years after his retirement, it was no sure thing that Halladay would receive the call to the Hall. The ballot was backed up, and though Halladay’s peak was as high as anyone’s through the Aughts, he didn’t possess enough of the old school counting numbers to presumably push him over the top in the minds of some writers.

Up until November of 2017, it felt as though Blue Jays fans might need to brace themselves for several years of campaigning to push Doc over the top, much in the way that so many other worthy candidates have languished on the ballot in recent years.

The more heartless and macabre will suggest that Halladay’s death was a contributing factor in making him successful in his first year of candidacy, as if fans needed any other reason to take the shine off what should be a much more joyous moment.

The idealized vision of this moment for Halladay amongst Canadian baseball fans would have been to see Doc’s plaque with a Blue Jays logo on the cap, and to get an opportunity to hear from the man himself.

Halladay, known to be hyper-focused and taciturn as a player, had lightened up in his post-career, and his induction speech at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will have to suffice for those of us who wish to hear him accept his accolades with a combination of grace, insight, and dad-jokiness.

The idealized version of Halladay’s career for Jays fans likely would have included a playoff run or two, and perhaps if he had played in the expanded Wild Card era, the Jays could have had more meaningful late season runs. Instead, Halladay’s signature career moments came in red pinstripes, with a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies.

It’s not simply hindsight through a morose lens that adds nuance to this weekend’s festivities. Throughout his career, even in the sunny days, it could feel as though there was cold and rain on the horizon. Pitching at his highest level of dominance in 2005, a Kevin Mench liner off his shin broke his leg, and robbed him of a start in the All-Star Game, and possibly another Cy Young with the Jays.

For the final years of his stay in Toronto, the prospect of his departure hung over the franchise like a dark cloud, even as Halladay continued to shine. His 2009 season was overshadowed constantly by a feeling that any game may be his last in a Blue Jays uniform. And when he wasn’t traded, it was then the sense of inevitability that it would happen in the off-season.

And of course, the suddenness and nature of Halladay’s passing can’t help but overshadow the weekend, which should have been a celebration, and not another opportunity to grieve.

There will be many more opportunities for us to remember the high points of Doc’s career. If we have approached this weekend’s ceremony with a feeling of sadness of what has been lost, let’s hope that this is also a moment for us to begin again to celebrate the man and player, and the many moments of joy he brought as a truly exceptional Blue Jay.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.