Commentary

A Halladay weekend to remember

Phillies ace throws the season's second perfect game and 20th in big league history

Updated: May 30, 2010, 3:21 AM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

It was supposed to be a holiday weekend. But on an unforgettable Saturday night in Miami, it turned into a Halladay weekend.

The legendary names that hang on the walls of Sun Life Stadium belong to men who made a living wearing shoulder pads, not baseball caps. But on this Saturday night, the great Roy Halladay added his name to a whole different group of legends.

The list of men who have thrown baseball's rarified perfect games is only 20 names long. But when you peruse the 19 names who managed this feat before the Phillies' ace perfectoed the Marlins on Saturday, you notice something:

Not many of those names had a career like Roy Halladay's.

[+] EnlargeRoy Halladay
Steve Mitchell/US PressiwreHalladay joins Jim Bunning (1964) as the only Phillies pitchers to throw a perfect game.

Oh, Sandy Koufax is on that list. And Catfish Hunter is on that list. And Randy Johnson is on that list.

But there are 67 pitchers in history who have won a Cy Young Award. And before Saturday, only four of them (Koufax, Hunter, Johnson and David Cone) -- not to mention Cy Young himself -- ever managed to throw a perfect game.

Yet Don Larsen (81-91 lifetime) threw one. And Charlie Robertson (49-80) threw one. And so did Dallas Braden (.272 career opponent batting average) and Mark Buehrle (.270 opponent batting average).

So stuff happens in this game. And sometimes it happens to men you'd never think to describe as "unhittable" -- until, on one special day of their lives, they were.

Not that Halladay has been a guy who took no-hitters into the ninth every couple of weeks, either, of course. Heck, before Saturday, he hadn't done that since the second start of his career, way back in 1998.

And because he throws so many strikes, Halladay has given up nearly a hit an inning himself through his career (2,070 in 2,123 2/3 before Saturday). And that strike-throwing obsession is so important to his whole M.O., there were undoubtedly a whole lot of people who thought he'd never have a night like this one.

But in a way, Roy Halladay was the (ahem) perfect pitcher to have this kind of night -- because all he does, every minute of every day, is pursue perfection.

He's a different kind of creature than just about anyone else in his profession these days. He's a pitching monster who seems to have popped out of a time machine, transported into the year 2010 with the mindset of a guy who'd have been very comfortable pitching in 1910.

I got to talking about Halladay one day this spring with a former teammate of his in Toronto, Jason Frasor. And I found myself thinking Saturday about something Frasor said that day.

Some men, Frasor said, prepare to pitch.

And some men, he said, prepare to win.

But "Doc," Frasor said, "prepares to dominate."

And that's just about all Halladay has done since the day he reappeared in the big leagues in 2002, after that infamous detour to the Florida State League in 2001. He leads the majors in wins (137), innings pitched (1,796 1/3) and complete games (51) since then. He's second in winning percentage (.688) and ERA (3.08).

And none of that happened by accident. It happened because all this man has done since is embarked upon the pursuit of greatness.

You find him in the workout room hours before dawn on every spring training morning. You'll have to wait for 45 minutes to talk to him after every regular-season start, because there is no chance -- none -- he'd skip his mandatory post-pitching workout, even after a perfect game.

"I used to think I got to the park early," Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson said of Halladay this spring. "But I get here at 6:15 [a.m.], and he's already on his second shirt."

And just try to take this guy out of a game. Good luck.

Twice already this season, his manager in Philadelphia, Charlie Manuel, headed for the mound late in a game to visit with his new ace. In one game, May 6 against St. Louis, Halladay had already thrown 117 pitches. In the second game, May 18 against the Pirates, Halladay had already thrown 126 pitches. Both times, Halladay talked his manager right back into the dugout and kept on pitching.

Is there any other pitcher alive that happens with anymore? Yeah, right. But when the manager hands Roy Halladay the baseball, it practically takes a court order to compel him to him to give it back.

The funny thing is, before Saturday, the prevailing wisdom was that all those pitches had taken their toll on Halladay. He'd allowed 27 hits in his previous three starts -- none of them wins. And the seven runs he gave up to the Red Sox last Sunday were the most any pitcher had ever allowed one start before throwing a perfect game.

But Halladay made a little mechanical adjustment before this start, after a suggestion by his 47-year-old teammate/sage, Jamie Moyer. And what happened over the next couple of hours ought to end the is-Roy-Halladay-overworked debate.

His 2-hour, 11-minute masterpiece Saturday was vintage Halladay. It was his 86th career no-walk game. It was his 54th complete game. And, of course, nearly two-thirds of his pitches (72 of 115) were strikes. An incredible 26 of them were called strikes.

And when he'd finished retiring that 27th hitter of the night, he'd added his name to one of baseball's most indelible lists.

For the rest of time, that list will now show that Roy Halladay -- a man who has devoted nearly his entire professional life to the pursuit of perfection -- had finally become one of the rare pitchers in history to officially achieve it.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com