Philadelphia — Roy Halladay had a passion for flying airplanes that nearly matched his love of baseball.
Halladay worked tirelessly to become a dominant pitcher, winning a Cy Young Award in each league and tossing a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter in the same year for the Philadelphia Phillies. When he couldn’t pitch at a high level anymore, Halladay walked away from the game and immersed himself in another craft.
The son of a corporate pilot, Halladay quickly got his license to fly — despite his wife’s misgivings. The eight-time All-Star fulfilled his dream when he purchased his own plane last month.
Halladay died Tuesday when that private plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He was 40.
“All-Star pitcher. All-Star person. All-Star father and family man,” Phillies chairman David Montgomery said at a news conference.
Former teammate and current Texas Rangers ace Cole Hamels joined Montgomery at Philadelphia’s ballpark to remember Halladay.
“Knowing his father was a pilot, you look up to your dad always,” Hamels said. “He had that bug that he wanted to fly. That was his passion.
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said during a news conference in Holiday, Florida, that Halladay’s ICON A5 went down around noon off the coast. The sheriff’s office marine unit responded and discovered Halladay’s body in shallow water near some mangroves. No survivors were found.
Police said they couldn’t confirm if there were additional passengers on the plane or say where it was headed. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
Halladay, who retired after the 2013 season, often posted on social media about small planes .
“I have dreamed about owning a A5 since I retired! Real life is better then my dreams!!” Halladay tweeted on Oct. 13.
ICON aircraft had posted a video with Halladay trying out a new plane. The video showed Halladay taking delivery of a new ICON A5, a two-seat “light-sport aircraft” that can land on water.
In the video, Halladay said the terms of his baseball contract prevented him from having a pilot’s license while playing, and that his wife was originally against the idea of him getting the aircraft.
“She’s fought me the whole way,” Halladay said.
“Hard. I fought hard. I was very against it,” Brandy Halladay said in the same video, before explaining why she eventually understood and approved of her husband’s desire to have the plane.
The couple has two sons, Ryan and Braden.
Halladay spent 12 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays followed by four seasons with the Phillies. He was 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA.
“Words cannot describe what it feels like to lose a friend like Roy,” said former teammate Chase Utley, who was Halladay’s favorite player. “He was the ultimate teammate with a passion for being the best. I’m honored to have had the chance to compete with you, Roy. My heart goes out to Brandy and his boys. RIP Doc, but knowing you, rest is not in your vocabulary.”
Other baseball players to die in plane crashes include Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente in a relief mission from Puerto Rico traveling to earthquake victims in Nicaragua on New Year’s Eve in 1972; New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson piloting his own plane near his home in Canton, Ohio, in 1979; and Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle piloting a private plane in New York City in 2006.
Halladay was nominated several times for the Roberto Clemente Award, given by Major League Baseball to players for sportsmanship and community involvement. The Halladay Family Foundation has aided children’s charities, hunger relief and animal rescue.
A 6-foot-6 right-hander, Halladay was a throwback on the mound. Durable and determined to finish what he started, Halladay won the AL Cy Young in 2003 after going 22-7 and the NL prize in 2010 after going 21-10 in his first season with the Phillies.