Roy Halladay, one of the newest electees to the Baseball Hall of Fame, will be remembered by many as a Toronto Blue Jay. Yet, the most noteworthy moment of Halladay’s career came with the Philadelphia Phillies, a sign that the Phillies truly were the “icing on the cake” to his career, as he said at his retirement press conference in 2013.
On Oct. 6, 2010, Halladay, the eventual National League Cy Young Award winner that season, took the ball for the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds. By now, you know the story. It was Halladay’s first postseason start of his illustrious career, and he would throw just the second no-hitter in postseason history.
Though not the Big Red Machine, the Reds lineup in 2010 was one of the best in the league that season. Scott Rolen made his sixth career All-Star team in 2010. Brandon Phillips made his first of three consecutive trips to the All-Star Game in 2010. Jay Bruce homered 25 times. And Joey Votto, who may very well join Halladay in Cooperstown at the conclusion of his career, slashed .324/.424/.600 with an OPS of 1.024, 37 home runs, 113 RBIs and a 7.0 fWAR, en route to winning the National League MVP.
But even Votto, one of the best pure hitters of the last 25 years, knew that Halladay had a chance to put together a historic performance early in the game.
“I remember thinking, ‘Woah, woah, woah, you’ve got to get going now, this guy is really sharp today,’ ” Votto said as part of an MLB Network special on Halladay’s no-hitter. “I just remember thinking, ‘Wow, he’s got a really good sinker.’ I remember seeing his cutter and thinking ‘Wow, he’s got a really good cutter.’ And then he threw his splitter, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, he’s got a really good splitter too.’ And then he threw his curveball, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, he’s got the best curveball that I’ve ever seen.’ You know, it was just like one, after the other, after the other.”
So when Votto stepped to the plate in the top of the seventh, already having been retired twice, he didn’t think about trying to put the Reds on the board with one swing. Heck, he didn’t even think about trying to get on base with one swing.
“What I was thinking before that at-bat was that I needed to throw him off in such a way that maybe he gets rattled and hits me,” Votto said. “So I get in the box, and as Roy gets on the mound, I call timeout. I take a pitch or two, and then I say, ‘I’m gonna call timeout again.’ ”
Votto ultimately reached out and poked a ball to third baseman Wilson Valdez in the at-bat. Valdez threw the ball to Ryan Howard at first base, putting Halladay within seven outs of a no-hitter. On a normal day, it would have been seen as an inconsequential groundout. But given that Halladay was perhaps more locked in than when he had thrown his perfect game in May of that same season, poking a ball the other way and hoping for it to find some real estate probably wasn’t the worst plan. It just didn’t work.
In terms of throwing Halladay off by stepping out, it didn’t have an impact on him ultimately completing the no-hitter. But when Halladay was teammates with Votto at the 2011 All-Star Game in Phoenix, he did let Votto know how annoyed he was by his attempt to rattle him.
“Next year at the All-Star Game, he [Halladay] said, “Hey, remember when you called timeout twice during that at-bat? I wanted to kill you. If I could have, I would have walked to home plate and choked you to death.’ ”
This speaks to the sense of humor that Halladay had. During his posthumous induction onto the Phillies Wall of Fame last August, his former manager, Charlie Manuel, told a similar story. Halladay spent the first 12 seasons of his career in the American League, so hitting wasn’t much of a concern. In 2010, which was his first season in the National League, Manuel said that he once teased Halladay about his hitting. Halladay, in the least surprising response possible, showed up early the following day and had Manuel throw him batting practice. The first pitch that Manuel threw, Halladay lined the ball directly back at him, knocking Manuel down. All Halladay said after was “Hey, Chuck, I think this hitting session is over.”
Ironically, things came full-circle during Halladay’s postseason no-hitter. While Votto, who truly views hitting as an art form, was going out of his way just to get Halladay to maybe hit him, Halladay already had recorded an RBI himself in the game.