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Roy Halladay elected with Rivera, Mussina, and Martinez to the Baseball Hall of Fame

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Cooperstown has coming calling for the Doc

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

In his first year of eligibility, Roy Halladay was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the BBWAA, named on 363 of 425 ballots cast (85.4%). He joins fellow first ballot inductee Mariano Rivera, who becomes the first player elected unanimously, as well as Edgar Martinez (also 85.4%) and Mike Mussina (76.7%).

Halladay will thus be part of a record class in Cooperstown next summer, as the four above will join Lee Smith and Harold Baines who were elected last December by the Veteran’s Committee. The total of players will be the largest class of players inducted in one year, surpassing the inaugural class of five from 1936.

As I wrote this morning, Halladay is the eighth player inducted in the Hall to have played with the Blue Jays, and will be the second to go in with the team logo on his plaque. More significantly, 43 years after the franchise began baseball operations in earnest, the first player drafted, developed, and to spent his prime in Toronto is on his way to Cooperstown. For a generation of baseball fans, between Joe Carter’s home run and Jose Bautista’s bat flip, myself included, Halladay was the apothesis of Blue Jays baseball as the team failed to make the playoffs during his entire professional career.

Everyone will undoubtedly have their own indelible Halladay memories. For me, it starts almost literally at the beginning, with the almost no-hitter broken up by Bobby Higginson, one of my earliest baseball memories. I was at the game when he came back up to the big leagues in against Boston June 2000 and spun a gem into the 8th inning. This after being demoted with an 11.97 ERA the month before. Unfortunately, he was not quite yet back for good, but that the single season record for worst ERA in a single season (min. 50 innings) belongs to a first ballot Hall of Famer is a great lesson in perseverance.

Halladay would be back for good in July the following year, and though it started ignominiously at the hands of those Red Sox, within a month he had found the form that would dominate baseball and make him MLB’s best pitcher for the next decade. The Cy Young season of 2003 and a franchise record 22 wins (despite Phil Cuzzi’s best efforts that September in Tampa. And yet, he was probably even better in 2005, when he had already thrown over 140 innings to a 2.41 ERA before his season was cut short on a line drive off his leg against Texas.

There was the night in April 2007 when I had an exam until 9:30 and hoped I might catch the tail end of the game afterwards. It went to extras but no dice with Doc on the mound, he needed just 107 pitches to go all 10 innings, in a crisp 2:14. There was the 2-0 duel with Mark Buehrle in an even brisker 1:58. I didn’t catch his perfect game, but there the playoff no hitter, stopping one of the best offensive teams in baseball cold in their tracks.

The numbers of course speak for them themselves. 203-105 for a .659 winning percentage, a 3.38 ERA mostly across one of the most offensive eras in baseball. His adjusted ERA (ERA-) of 76 ranks 38th in MLB history for all pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched. The strikeout to walk rate of 3.58.

But for my money, his most impressive statistical tally is the 67 complete games. He the league in seven seasons, including five straight from 2007 to 2011 (the second most black ink of any pitcher all-time in that category). In an era when it became rare for pitchers to finish what they started, he compiled more complete games than entire pitching staffs of other teams. It is not an exaggeration to say that what Babe Ruth was to home runs in the early 20th century, Roy Halladay was to complete games at the dawn of the 21st. To paraphrase Evita: he kept his promise, he went the distance.

But the truth is, he did leave us. The honour is of course richly deserved, but its posthumous nature will lend a bittersweet note to the proceedings next summer.