Former Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay dies in plane crash

Roy Halladay, pitching for the Phillies in September 2013.

Roy Halladay, 40, the ace pitcher with a mythical work ethic who authored a Phillies perfect game and postseason no-hitter and could manipulate a baseball like few in his generation, was killed Tuesday when his small plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Pasco County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office confirmed Halladay’s death and said in a news conference that the specifics of the accident were still under investigation. Authorities said Halladay’s plane, an ICON A5 single-engine, amphibious aircraft, crashed about 1 p.m. about 10 miles west of St. Petersburg, Fla. Halladay was the only one aboard.

“We are numb over the very tragic news about Roy Halladay’s untimely death,” the Phillies said in a statement. “There are no words to describe the sadness that the entire Phillies family is feeling over the loss of one of the most respected human beings to ever play the game.”

The father of two teenage boys who played baseball, Halladay had filled his retirement with family and flying — while the game he loved always tugged at him. He had worked this season as a part-time employee for the Phillies in Florida with a focus on the mental side of the game. He pursued a degree in psychology.

But he was an avid flyer who often tweeted about his time in the air. His father flew planes when Halladay was younger. Halladay said in an interview last March that he had accrued about 800 hours in the air since he threw his last pitch in 2013. He had received his instrument rating and multi-engine rating. He was working toward a commercial rating.

“I’m trying to progress through it,” Halladay said in March. “I’d like to be able to instruct so I can teach my boys. I’d like to try to finish that up.”

Authorities said there were no distress calls to air-traffic control Tuesday in the moments before Halladay’s plane crashed.

Nicknamed “Doc” and known as a fierce competitor on the mound, Halladay was dominant in his first two seasons with the Phillies when expectations were higher than ever. He won the Cy Young Award in 2010. He finished second in 2011. He pitched a perfect game in Miami on May 29, 2010, then followed it less than five months later with a no-hitter against Cincinnati in Game 1 of the National League division series at Citizens Bank Park. It was his first postseason start in his 13th season, a moment so awaited in Major League Baseball, with an unparalleled result. His embraces with catcher Carlos Ruiz were immortalized on basement walls across the Delaware Valley.

“I know baseball can be a long grueling season, but when you had Roy Halladay on the mound you didn’t miss an inning,” Cole Hamels, his former teammate, said Tuesday. “You didn’t miss a pitch. You were watching every moment.”

Halladay had a 3.38 ERA in 16 seasons, most of which were spent with the Toronto Blue Jays. He won two Cy Young Awards. He made eight All-Star teams. He threw 67 complete games at a time when the nine-inning starter became a rare breed. He survived a 2001 demotion from the majors to single-A ball, a humiliation that became the driving force behind his emphasis on the mental skills required to pitch.  Halladay found solace in words written by sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman’s guide, The Mental ABC’s of Pitching, when Halladay’s wife, Brandy, found it at a bookstore. That book, because of Halladay, became regular reading for a new baseball generation.

He never pitched in a World Series, and the glorious moments of his Phillies career were paired with painful ones. He lost a decisive Game 5 in 2011,  a 1-0 duel against one of his best friends, Chris Carpenter, that fizzled a 102-win season. Halladay was not the same pitcher after that; he confronted shoulder injuries that sapped him of his pinpoint command.

He was a stoic presence in the dugout and clubhouse, a leader who led without words. He was often the first one at the ballpark, which created a logistical issue when he arrived to Phillies spring training in 2010. A clubhouse employee gave Halladay an extra set of keys so the pitcher could keep his pre-dawn routine.

“R.I.P. Doc,” former teammate Chase Utley said, “but knowing you, rest is not in your vocabulary”

The night he achieved perfection in Miami, he completed his normal 40-minute postgame workout before answering questions at a news conference. Halladay took a call from then-Vice President Joe Biden. He showered. He phoned his wife. He said goodnight to his sons, Braden and Ryan, who had watched every out. Then, he arrived at the ballpark the next day at 8:45 a.m. for another workout.

“In Miami, after he threw the perfect game, he addressed the team,” former Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said Tuesday. “Of course they wanted him to speak. The first thing that came out of his mouth was, ‘It’s was all Chooch. Chooch is the man.’ Doc didn’t want any of the credit. He wanted to make sure his teammates knew it was a package deal, that his catcher was very, very good that night. That’s just the way he was.”

A few months later, Halladay bought 60 luxury watches for his teammates and club employees, including the bat boy. They all had an inscription: “We did it together. Thanks, Roy Halladay.”

Harry Leroy Halladay III was born May 14, 1977. He was a prep star in the Denver suburbs who was selected by Toronto with the 17th overall pick in the 1995 amateur draft. He reached the majors at the end of the 1998 season and came within one out of a no-hitter in his second career start.

The outpouring of remembrances Tuesday — stories that baseball people hoped to tell one day in Cooperstown — personalized a pitcher who preferred to let his sinker and cutter do the talking.

“Baseball’s heart hurts,” pitcher Jason Hammel posted on Twitter.

“I can’t believe it,” Pedro Martinez tweeted. “So many times we competed against each other and even while competing, I wanted to see you!”

“He was the guy you aspired to be,” longtime infielder John McDonald tweeted.

Or, as veteran pitcher Brandon McCarthy tweeted: “Roy Halladay was your favorite player’s favorite player.”

Numerous minor-league players in the Phillies organization praised Halladay this season for his guidance. Halladay held individual sessions with players and presented to larger groups about how to approach the game. He found a new purpose in working with younger players; he had so much to give back to the game.

“If I can share anything that’ll help them,” Halladay said last March, “that’s awesome.”

Funeral arrangements were pending.