John Gibbons’ first stint with the Toronto Blue Jays wasn’t exactly memorable, but it provided him with some insight on one of the most intriguing pitchers of his time.
Still at the early stages of his Hall of Fame career, Roy Halladay made an impression far beyond his All-Star numbers.
“Special guy,” Gibbons told Mike Zigomanis and Scott MacArthur during an appearance on Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Lead Off on Tuesday. “Complex guy, he kept to himself, there’s no doubt. But … there’s certain guys who you come along in your life, in your profession, that make a huge impact, not just on the field but off the field, that are just quality human beings, and he’s right up at the top.”
Gibbons managed Halladay for five seasons — from 2004 to 2008, the total extent of his first stint as Blue Jays manager. He saw the right-hander throw 26 complete games during that time, while leading the league in that stat three times. Only twice under Gibbons did Halladay finish a season under 200 innings pitched.
On Friday, Halladay’s perfect game — the 20th in MLB history, as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies — will reach its 10th anniversary.
“He would go out there and throw all of those pitches, throw complete games, all that stuff, and there was only a couple of guys in the league at the time who could do it,” said Gibbons. “So, the game was changing even back then in his prime. And he was a guy that wanted to do it. I don’t even think that there were a lot of guys after him that wanted to do it anymore. I think they kind of accepted the way the game is.”
Doc’s work-horse mentality, according to his former skipper, came from a sense of responsibility.
“He took it upon himself to say, ‘Hey, that’s my job, people come to watch me play, they’re paying me to go out there and complete this game.’ … He knew he was getting paid a lot of money and he felt a responsibility. In between starts, nobody worked harder. He always prepared himself for whatever, good, bad or ugly.”
Halladay and Gibbons didn’t get to team up in a post-season — Doc would only reach the playoffs for the first time in 2010 with the Phillies and the Blue Jays made it in 2015, ending a 21-year drought that was the longest in the four major North American sports leagues at the time.
Still, Gibbons saw enough to sell him on the young pitcher’s character.
“Roy just had that wonderful mentality that you want in any professional in any sports — and even in life, you know, he was going to give you everything he had every day, good or bad. And usually it was good.”