DENVER — Before the perfect game, before the no-hitter, before the mind-numbing morning workouts, before the pair became teammates with the Philadelphia Phillies, Brad Lidge figured Roy Halladay would reach the Hall of Fame.
Lidge faced Halladay in Little League. His mind was made up.
"I remember when he came to the Phillies, and I told him, 'I wish I had a story about taking you deep when we were kids,'" Lidge told Denver7 on Tuesday. "But there was nothing like that. When I faced him, I was trying not to crap my pants because he was throwing so hard. He was always a little taller, always threw a little harder, and always worked a lot harder than everyone. People knew even then he was going places."
Halladay's path ended in Cooperstown. Tuesday, the former Arvada West star received baseball's highest honor.
With 75 percent required from the Baseball Writers Association of America, Halladay received 85.4 percent in his first year of eligibility. He will be joined in this year's class by Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who received 100 percent of the vote for the first time ever, Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez (85.4 percent) and Orioles and Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina (76.7 percent). Former Rockies stars Larry Walker (54.6 percent in ninth year on ballot) and Todd Helton (16.5 percent in first year) fell short in their bids, but will remain on the ballot.
Halladay's enshrinement comes with mixed emotions. He died at age 40 after a plane he was piloting crashed off the Florida coast in November 2017. But Tuesday's vote speaks to the imprint the former Arvada West star left on the game. He becomes only the second Colorado native to be elected and first starting pitcher. Rich "Goose" Gossage earned his berth in 2008 after a dominating career as a closer, most notably for the Yankees and Padres.
"It’s awesome to have another guy from Colorado," Gossage said to Denver7 from his Colorado Springs home on Tuesday. "For a decade he was one of the best, one of the best of all-time. He's a throwback to the way that starters used to think. He broke in a time where he was still kind of old school. He had that mentality that he didn't want you to take the ball from him."
Gossage got to know Halladay after both had retired. They had a mutual friend who ran an events center in Clearwater, Fla., where concerts were staged. They talked there. It was two old baseball souls colliding.
"I felt like I already knew him by the way we talked about the game," Gossage said. "I was a little worried that he might have left the game too soon so that might keep him from getting in on the first ballot. But he deserved it. God Bless Roy and his family. I am so happy for him. It means a lot that he got in."
Halladay's wife, Brandy, thanked writers Tuesday in a statement and said his election was very meaningful to their family.
The only question with Halladay was when – not if. He posted breathtaking stats. What he lacked in quantity, he dwarfed with quality with the Toronto Blue Jays and Phillies. He finished 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA and finished in the top five of Cy Young voting seven times. He threw a perfect game in 2010, and later added a no-hitter in the first game of the playoffs that season.
"I think there’s a lot about Roy and it's so hard to measure why he was so valuable to a team. I think about him being first guy there and last guy to leave. He instilled a work ethic for everyone. You realized if you want to be great you have to put in the time and effort. He showed you what that looked like everyday," said Lidge, whose one regret is that Halladay didn't win a ring with the Phillies, joining them after their World Series title. "He worked so hard and had great command and nasty pitches. So many starters go 5 2/3 innings and are happy with getting a quality start. Roy was upset if he came out in the ninth. I will always remember that no-hitter against the Reds in the postseason. He gave the bullpen a day off. I had my feet on the fence. I didn't have to move."
Halladay regularly provided a rest for relievers. Known as one of the last horses in the game, Halladay posted 67 complete games in a era of specialized bullpens.
"Facing Doc, I had my hands full. Not only was his stuff second to none, he just competed at the highest level. He did not give in," former Rockies and current Yankees shortstop Troy Tulowitzi told Denver7. "I got the chance to meet him a few occasions. He was a true professional, and his presence was felt."
My own memories of Halladay centered away from the mound. His greatness there was easy to see. What made Halladay special was what he did when no one was watching. I arrived at Citizen's Bank Park five hours before a Rockies game against the Phillies one summer. The only sounds were a sprinkler spraying the outfield and Halladay running the concourse. He was drenched in sweat as he raced around the field.
Tuesday, he reached the finish line with baseball's highest honor.
"I think this is a big deal. I am coaching my son now. He's 10 years old and there's not a super baseball presence in Colorado like other places," Lidge said. "Today is a reminder for scouts not to overlook certain areas," Lidge said. "With my son, I get a little discouraged because he's the only one at his school playing baseball. I want more playing. And with Roy, he brings a bigger presence and awareness. He's a Hall of Famer. He shows that anything is possible."