COOPERSTOWN — Brandy Halladay knew the emotions would flow and the tears would come. As it turned out, they came even faster than she thought they would Sunday at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction of her late husband.
As a video reviewing the career of Roy Halladay played on a giant screen near the stage outside the Clark Sports Center, his widow turned away and wiped her eyes several times. When it was over and she came forward to accept his plaque, she was composed. But as she stepped to the dais to deliver her speech, the record gathering of 58 Hall of Famers behind her led the estimated crowd of 55,000 in one of several standing ovations.
Before she began her 7-minute reflection, Brandy Halladay had a brief moment in front of the baseball world.
"That's so tough. I would wish no one to go through that," Mariano Rivera said after the ceremony when asked about Brandy having to speak on behalf of her late husband. "I was just praying for her."
Baseball has supported the Halladay family since Roy's death nearly two years ago at age 40 in the crash of his sport plane. And that's been particularly true since the January call that Halladay was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
"I can't tell you how many hugs I've gotten," Brandy Halladay said as she began to speak … "Anybody who thinks baseball truly isn't a family has never been involved in baseball. I know how honored Roy would be to be sitting here today with such accomplished men who have represented this game so well over all of your careers.
"This is not my speech to give," she added. "I'm going to do the best I can to say the things I believe Roy might have said or would have wanted to say if he was here today."
You could feel the fans — whether from Toronto or Philadelphia or the folks from other places like Seattle, Baltimore, Chicago or New York — pulling for Brandy Halladay as well. It was pretty dusty on the sprawling green by the time she got her final standing ovation.
Brandy Halladay gave out all the thanks Roy would have to his family and friends, both inside and outside the game. She said his legacy of youth baseball coaching is something she wants to see her family keep supporting.
She recounted a poignant conversation after Halladay's death with friend and former Phillies teammate J.C. Romero.
"He said to me, 'Roy didn't play that way because he wanted to be in the Hall of Fame. He'll be in the Hall of Fame because of the way he played,' '' she said. "And I know that's true."
Halladay is the sixth player elected posthumously by the Baseball Writers Association of America, the first since Roberto Clemente was chosen in a special election and inducted in 1973, just over seven months after his death in a plane crash in Nicaragua.
Today is the day. Thank you, Doc 💙
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 21, 2019
In a gathering with reporters afterward, Brandy Halladay admitted she had thought about her speech for a long time and that much of it was written in her head in routine places like the shower.
And she again thanked the Hall of Famers for their support.
"I think I might be the luckiest person on the planet because the men that I was with this week are literally the most genuine, kind, supportive, loving affectionate people," she said. "I've gotten more support, hugs, more 'you've-got-thises.' I was not as prepared as I thought I would be able to be. That caught me off guard.
"I don't mind speaking in public, that's fine. Emotion in public is different. When something hits you and you get that wobble in your voice, it's hard to let it go. Knowing I have friends behind me ... made it so much easier for me. They made me feel very welcome, very supported. I worried that I'd be out of place and they made sure I didn't feel that way. Amazing."
Braden Halladay, a Penn State student whom the Blue Jays made a ceremonial 32nd-round draft pick last month, joked that he remembers most about his father "just being stupid" and was fascinated to learn the Hall of Famers' view of him. Many talked to him about his dad's notorious work ethic, marked by early-morning workouts. And he also said he knew his mother had the speech under control.
"To be able to pick the brains of these guys and learn about them, not even just as players but as people was an absolute surreal experience," he said. "And my mom is a rock. I didn't even have to think twice about if she had this."
Halladay's legacy became complicated last week by a Sports Illustrated story that delved heavily into his post-baseball life. The focus was on his love of flying, on getting approval from his pilot father for his work in the air and perhaps the carelessness of his final flight on Nov. 7, 2017 when he crashed off the coast of Tampa. Even darker, the article chronicled his post-career struggles with depression and his use of amphetamines and antidepressants.
"Roy would want everyone to know that people are not perfect," Brandy Halladay told the crowd. "We are all imperfect and flawed in one way or another. We all struggle, but with hard work, humility and dedication, imperfect people can still have perfect moments. Roy was blessed in his life and in his career to have some perfect moments, but I believe that they were only possible because of the man he strived to be, the teammate that he was and the people he was so blessed to be on the field with."
An amazing speech by Brandy Halladay. ❤️💙 pic.twitter.com/4qGesY5PvE
— MLB (@MLB) July 21, 2019
After the speech, a reporter asked Brandy Halladay to delve into what she meant by that section of her remarks.
"Roy was a normal person with a very exceptionally amazing job," she said. "These men doing outstanding things are still real people. They still have feelings, they still have families. They still struggle. ... Sometimes it's hard to present the image you know everybody wants to see. It's also hard to be judged by the image people expect of you. It's important we don't sensationalize or idealize what a baseball player is. Look at the man and the human doing such amazing things."
On behalf of Roy Halladay the man and now the Hall of Famer, Brandy Halladay did an amazing thing Sunday with millions of eyes watching. Those of us fortunate enough to be there will never forget it.