5 Years Ago Today, Roy Halladay Was Perfect
I didn’t notice until the fifth inning.
I was actually at a hockey bar. Arthur Etchells had recommended it to me to watch Olympic hockey earlier that year, and the Flyers were opening the Stanley Cup Finals that night. T.A. Flannery’s was the kind of bar where the regulars swore the Guinness there was the best pint in the city. “My dad’s very Catholic, and he always had a firearm behind the bar,” said actress Kate Flannery (Meredith on The Office), whose grandfather founded the bar. How fortunate I was to be in such a great place to watch sports on such a special sports night.
It was a great scene. When Ville Leino scored first for the Flyers, the bar screamed in celebration. Butch Flannery gave everyone free shots. But as the hockey game continued — and the Flyers fell behind — our attention turned to baseball. Normally, it wouldn’t have: The Phillies were coming off consecutive pennants, and they were playing the Marlins. This was a win.
But as the first period ended, I checked my phone. No hits yet for the Marlins! We all played along with the baseball superstition and didn’t say the words “no hitter.” Eventually, the bar noticed it wasn’t just a no-hitter: It was a perfect game. We roared when we figured it out. Eventually, the TVs and the sound in the bar turned to the Phillies. The Flyers ended up losing that game (and the series), but we a pretty amazing consolation prize.
There’s something about the way baseball is played that lends itself to these amazing individual moments. A century and a half of baseball history — and baseball’s ceaseless myth-making — has created cool individual performances that, hey, might just happen during this game you’re watching. Once I went to the Phillies and Ryan Howard hit three home runs. Three home runs! I’d never seen that before in person.
Sometimes you’ll be watching an otherwise-meaningless game and someone will hit four home runs (the last Phillies player to do it was Mike Schmidt in 1976, so it’s been a while), throw a no-hitter (only 11 in Phillies history) or turn an unassisted triple play (which is even rarer than a perfect game). Roy Halladay retiring all 27 batters he faced was just sports, but because it happens so infrequently it felt important. It felt like we were good.
Not everyone was happy the Phillies traded for Halladay. It wasn’t any fault of his, but when he was traded to the Phillies on December 15th, the team also sent out Cliff Lee in a separate deal. I remember my uncle saying he’d already purchased a few Lee shirseys as Christmas presents.
Of course, people forgot that almost immediately once the season started. Halladay gave up a run in his first inning as a Phillie. He didn’t give up another earned run until April 16th, 11 days later. The perfect game came one start after Halladay was shelled in five innings in Boston; he made adjustments. Apparently, they were great ones.
Halladay ended his first year with the Phillies with a 21-10 record, a 2.44 ERA and 219 strikeouts. He won the Cy Young Award. He threw another no-hitter in the playoffs. But the perfect game was the best singular achievement. And he just wanted to praise his catcher.
“I don’t know what to say,” Halladay said on CSN after the game. “We felt like we got in a groove early, and about the fifth or sixth I was just following Chooch. I can’t say enough about the job he did today.” If anything, five years ago today Halladay was more than perfect.