“He was elite in the game when he was pitching here so from a manager’s standpoint the biggest decision was when do you take him out,” Gibbons said. “That was always a battle. It was never a good feeling walking on the mound in case he looked at you like: ‘What are you doing?’”
The towering right-hander quickly became a fan favorite in Toronto, where he spent 12 of his 16 major league seasons. Halladay won the American League Cy Young Award with the Blue Jays in 2003 and took the National League award with the Phillies in 2010, his first season in Philadelphia.
Credit Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press
He signed a one-day, free-agent deal with Toronto in December 2013 to retire as a Blue Jay.
The club returned the favor Thursday, enshrining him on the Rogers Centre’s Level of Excellence and unfurling a No. 32 banner from the center field rafters to thunderous applause.
A large, round, black-and-white 32 decal was laid flat on the mound for the pregame tribute while four black-and-white photos of Halladay, taken at different points in his Blue Jays career, stood on the infield. The first photo showed Halladay with his wife, Brandy, and his sons Braden and Ryan, who were on hand for the ceremony wearing white No. 32 Blue Jays jerseys.
Former Blue Jays players Pat Hentgen, Paul Spoljaric, Paul Quantrill, Scott Rolen, Jose Cruz Jr., Jason Frasor and Chris Carpenter, and former manager Cito Gaston, were also part of the ceremony. Each embraced Brandy, 17-year-old Braden and 13-year-old Ryan before taking their places alongside them on the field.
Gibbons presented Halladay’s sons with a gift from the organization before a video tribute was shows on the center field scoreboard.
There was no ceremonial first pitch. Instead, the game ball was placed on the mound by Braden and Ryan.
Halladay’s number is only the second to be retired by the Blue Jays. Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar’s No. 12 was retired in 2011. All Toronto players will wear a commemorative No. 32 patch on the left sleeve of their uniforms this season.
While he never won a World Series, Halladay came closest with the Phillies and pitched a no-hitter in his first post-season start on Oct. 6, 2010.
“He wasn’t afraid of anybody, and he wasn’t a guy that I would want to face, that’s for sure,” said Devon Travis, the Blue Jays’ second baseman. “It just shows that this life, every single day you better appreciate it.
“Even the great ones can be gone in an instant.”