Halladay takes his place among Philly's finest

ROY HALLADAY knew about the "passionate" reputation of the Philadelphia fan base when he agreed to the contract that allowed the Phillies to acquire the big righthander in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays in December 2009.

It seems as if every athlete has heard something about the infamous nature of Philadelphia fans.

What Halladay didn't know coming in, however, what he found out, like so many other athletes who have come to Philadelphia, was that the door swings both ways.

Sure, anyone can talk about how Philadelphia fans boo, criticize and eat their own.

But unless you're an athlete who has been through here, you can't get a true sense of how much Philadelphia fans love, praise and respect and, yes, gush over, those who grip their hearts and souls.

"Obviously, you are aware that these are passionate fans," Halladay said yesterday before he received the 2011 John Wanamaker Athletic Award. "You always hear that they are going to boo you and this or that, but as much support as I received on and off the field, people just coming up and saying hello and that they are excited to have you, that part I didn't anticipate.

"The image is that these are people who are only critical of how you do on the field, but they also appreciate when your team does well and you do well.

"That's the part that is sometimes forgotten when you talk about Philadelphia. The support here has been unbelievable."

Why does it seem as if Halladay has been a Phillie for a decade instead of a little less than 18 months? I guess because for the season and a half he has worn a Phillies uniform, he has been so outstanding.

Rarely does an athlete exceed the loftiest of expectations, but that is just what Halladay has done.

So yesterday in the Crystal Tea Room of the Wanamaker Building, it seemed perfectly natural that Halladay would join such Philadelphia legends as Chuck Bednarik (who won the first award in 1961), Wilt Chamberlain, Joe Frazier, Steve Carlton, Bobby Clarke, Mike Schmidt, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Reggie White and Dawn Staley as a recipient of the city's top athletic award.

"It definitely is an honor," Halladay said. "Coming to Philadelphia, you realize what a great sports city it is. So to be able to receive an award that so many other great athletes and great teams have received from such a great sports city is a tremendous honor.

"There are a lot of great names on this award, so to be mentioned with them means a lot."

On the extremely slim chance that anyone does not know why Halladay was so honored, his 2010 season included the National League Cy Young Award; the second perfect game in Phillies history; and the second no-hitter in major league baseball playoff history. He was 21-10, with a 2.44 ERA, and led the majors in innings pitched (250), complete games (nine), shutouts (four) and was tied for first in wins.

"Roy Halladay is the real deal," Mayor Nutter said. "Roy Halladay and the Phillies have brought our region together in ways that we have, quite frankly, not seen in recent times.

"The image of Philadelphia on the national and international scene has been enhanced because of what Roy and this team has done."

When you've had a season as Halladay did in 2010, you're going to rack up a lot of hardware to celebrate your achievements. Halladay's 2010 honors include the Phillies Pitcher of the Year, the Phillies Heart and Hustle Award winner, the MLB Clutch Performer of the Year, Major League Player of the Year by Baseball America, Pro Athlete of the year by The Sporting News, and NL Outstanding Pitcher by Players Choice Awards.

With so many national honors and awards from his peers, you might think Halladay might not appreciate a strictly local award, such as the John Wanamaker or the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association's Professional Athlete of the Year Award.

Halladay gets it.

Not too many cities have presented annual athletic awards for such an extended period like Philadelphia.

"When you look at the history and the previous winners, there are big names there," Halladay said, "not just for Philadelphia, but big names for sports in general.

"I think you do realize that this hasn't just been a great sports town for just the last few years, but it's been that way for a long, long time.

"As an athlete, you realize how special this city is because of the past winners." *

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