Former Phillies second baseman Chase Utley talks at celebration of life honoring Roy Halladay
With sweat dripping down the sides of his reddened cheeks following a workout under the steamy Florida morning sun, Roy Halladay meandered over to a throng of reporters and simply offered a smile.

By that point, the circus had already begun with the crowning of the 2011 Phillies rotation - featuring Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and the overshadowed Joe Blanton - as one of the greatest starting staffs in baseball history.

“Everybody labeled us as 'The Four Aces,'” Hamels said last week while in Philadelphia. “Roy came in and said, 'No, it’s Five Aces. We have five guys in this rotation and they’re all aces.' We believed it. We saw that from Roy and we believed it.”

Halladay, 40, died in a plane crash last week in the Gulf of Mexico near his home in Florida. The two-time Cy Young Award winner leaves behind his wife, Brandy, and two sons – Braden and Ryan.

Halladay spent only four years in Philadelphia, but his blue-collar mentality and unassuming nature were a match for the city. He was a throwback harmonized with supreme talent. He won a combined 40 games over his first two seasons with the Phillies in 2010 and 2011 while also tossing a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter. His combined 2.40 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over those first two seasons is a testament to his sheer dominance on the mound.

“Roy was the best competitor I’d ever seen,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said in a statement released by the Phillies. “It was an honor to have managed him. He was not only a great pitcher, but a great person and a tremendous father. His contributions to the Phillies can’t be measured.”

A 91-minute “Celebration of Life for Roy Halladay” attracted more than 1,000 people to Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Fla. on Tuesday. The public memorial began with a video tribute and ended with Halladay’s wife standing on the mound and releasing butterflies from a container as a final “goodbye.”

Hamels, Lee, Manuel, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins were all in attendance.

“All eyes are on me,” Halladay's wife said, surrounded by pictures of the pitcher with the Phillies and Blue Jays, along with floral arrangements bearing the 34 and 32 jersey numbers he wore.

“I’m really fortunate that I’ve gotten used to that feeling. I’ve literally been standing next to a man for 21 years that people could not take their eyes off of,” she said. “He was awe-striking. He was beautiful inside and out. Without saying a word, he seemed to always have just the right thing to say. When he did speak, people listened.”

Halladay was an eight-time All-Star who went 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA in his 16-year career. Prior to coming to Philadelphia, he spent 12 seasons in Toronto. He is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2019.

The stories of Halladay's selflessness are seemingly infinite. He shared his success and refused to stand in the spotlight alone. A few weeks after tossing a perfect game in Miami during the 2010 season he gifted 60 luxury watches to teammates, team officials, and even the bat boy. Each watch had an inscription: “We did it together. Thanks, Roy Halladay.”

"Roy had many gifts on the field, but in my opinion, his biggest gift came off the field," Utley said Tuesday speaking at Halladay's celebration. "He had the effortless ability to deflect pride onto others, something that in today’s game is tough to do. This trait brought out the best in his teammates, we really truly wanted to fight as hard as we could for him.”

Arm and shoulder troubles hampered Halladay over his final two seasons in Philadelphia, but he never used pain as an excuse for a poor performance. He lost his pinpoint accuracy and made every attempt to reinvent himself as a pitcher, but his body had worn out.

He remained connected with the Phillies, serving this past spring as an instructor to young pitchers while helping them with the mental side of the game.

"He certainly would have given more to baseball in the future because of his love for the game," Phillies chairman David Montgomery said. "But his commitment to his family kept him where he was the last few years. We'd had a number of conversations about his potential future in the game. But he just would say, 'I want it, but it's on hold. It's on hold right now because of my family.'"

Halladay always had a passion for planes and flying. He earned his pilot's license after retiring from the game and spent nearly 1,000 hours in the air while pursuing a commercial rating. When not in the cockpit he spent time coaching his son's high school and travel baseball teams.

"All-Star pitcher. All-Star person. All-Star father and family man," Montgomery said.
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

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