HOLIDAY, Fla. (AP) — Roy Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner who pitched a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies, died Tuesday when his private plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He was 40.
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said during a news conference that Halladay’s ICON A5 went down around noon off the coast of Florida. 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, was an amateur pilot who 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.
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 and an eight-time All-Star.
“Such a sad day,” former Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard tweeted. “We lost a great ball player but an even better human being.”
Other baseball players to die in plane crashes included 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 his own 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.
“You know, if my career’s two years, three years shorter than it could have been because I wanted to go out and pitch deep into games, I’m fine with that,” he said in a retirement news conference.
In 2011, Halladay was part of the “Four Aces” rotation in Philadelphia with Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Halladay and the Phillies lost 1-0 to St. Louis in the deciding Game 5 of the NL Division Series.
“To the world, Roy was one of the best pitchers in baseball, but to me, he was an inspiration, a great mentor, teammate, and most important, a friend,” said Hamels, now with the Texas Rangers. “His preparation and work ethic has and will forever be ingrained in me. Roy was a man of few words, but he lit up when his boys were around. His family and this game were everything to him, and there will never be a day in my own life that I won’t miss him.”
Chris Bourjos, the Toronto-area scout who signed Halladay, first saw him pitch in St. Louis in the summer of 1994, before his senior season as a prep star in the Denver area.
“Perfect pitcher’s body, tall, lean athletic. And the velocity! At that time, 93 miles an hour was pretty special,” Bourjos, the father of Tampa Bay center fielder Peter Bourjos, recalled Tuesday.
Nocco, the sheriff, personally knew Halladay.
“Many of you know Roy as a Cy Young winner, future Hall of Famer, one of the best pitchers ever to pitch the game of baseball,” Nocco said.
“We know Roy as a person, as a caring husband who loved his wife, Brandy. He loved his two boys tremendously … and we are so sad for your loss.”
Nocco said Halladay knew many members in the sheriff’s office, and that Halladay was part of a charity fishing tournament last Friday.
“He was probably one of the most humble human beings you’ll ever meet,” Nocco said. “For somebody who won two Cy Youngs, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball, he would walk in the room as if he was anybody. Didn’t matter who he met, he was kind, generous. His family purchased a dog for us — K-9 Doc. K-9 Doc is out there working, saving lives, making our community safer.”
The dog was named as a nod to Halladay’s nickname — Doc.
“He was one in a million,” Nocco said. “It is a true loss for us.”
The A5 was a newer model from ICON, based in Vacaville, California.
According to the NTSB’s website, two other ICON A5s crashed earlier this year, the only reported U.S. accidents involving the aircraft since it debuted three years ago. Both were attributed to pilot error.
Last May 8, an A5 crashed into the side of a canyon during a flight at Lake Berryessa, California, killing the pilot and his passenger. The NTSB ruled the crash was caused by the pilot flying too low, causing the plane to strike the canyon wall.
A month earlier, another A5 made a hard landing in the water off Key Largo, Florida, injuring the pilot and his passenger. The pilot told investigators the plane descended faster than he expected. He tried to abort the landing but the plane struck the water, causing substantial damage to the aircraft. The NTSB ruled that the pilot had failed to properly maintain his descent rate.
Halladay was an old-style workhorse who pitched 67 complete games and 20 shutouts. A three-time 20-game winner, he was with Toronto (1998-2009) and Philadelphia (2010-13).
Halladay pitched a perfect game for the Phillies at the Florida Marlins on May 29, 2010. That Oct. 6, against Cincinnati in the NL Division Series, he became only the second pitcher to throw a postseason no-hitter, joining Don Larsen, who accomplished the feat for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series.
In his second big league start, Halladay held Detroit hitless for 8 2/3 innings.
When he retired, Halladay said he wanted to avoid back surgery.
“As a baseball player, you realize that’s something you can’t do the rest of your life,” Halladay said. “I really don’t have any regrets. You realize there’s other things for you to accomplish in life.”
He is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2019.
“Absolutely I would love to be there,” he said during spring training this year, when he was a guest instructor for the Phillies. “I think every player who ever played the game would love to be there. It would be a tremendous honor.”
In a statement, the Blue Jays said the organization “is overcome by grief with the tragic loss of one the franchise’s greatest and most respected players, but even better human being. Impossible to express what he has meant to this franchise, the city and its fans.”
“I wanted to be Roy Halladay. I’m heartbroken, rest easy Doc ,” tweeted former pitcher Dan Haren, who posted a photo of a signed Halladay jersey.