As the sports world comes to grips with the sudden death of beloved Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy ‘Doc’ Halladay, many are remembering the numbers. The perfect game, the postseason no-hitter. eight all-star recognitions and 2,117 strikeouts.
But Baseball Canada president Jason Dickson remembers a different Doc Halladay.
“Everybody knew him or knew both of us when things were going well, but we had a different relationship when both of us were kind of trying to claw our way back to the big leagues,” says Dickson.
In 2001, the Dickson and Halladay not only friends and teammates, but roommates in the minor leagues in Knoxville, Tenn.
With Dickson fighting to return from shoulder surgery and Halladay working on pitching mechanics, the pair was often the first to arrive at practice and the last to leave in a scrappy grey pickup truck.
Dickson says Doc treated it like a baby.
“We probably could have rented any car that we wanted, but Doc was persistent and found this beat up old grey truck on a lot and convinced some guy to rent it to us for $100 a month,” says Dickson. “The thing hardly worked but it got us to where we went to, and Doc figured that was the vehicle we needed to blend in in Knoxville, Tenn., and that's what we had.”
And while Dickson remembers Halladay’s intense work ethic and dedication to breaking back into the majors, he wasn't above pulling pranks on his young teammates.
“My role was always either to distract while he was doing whatever he was doing, or set it up for him, or validate something he said that might not be real, so it worked out,” he says. “I'm not a big prankster, but I got sucked into it and realized it could work out well if it was a team effort.”
The 40-year-old died after his plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, only four years after retiring from professional baseball.
Dickson last crossed paths with his old roommate in June when Halladay was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. While they hadn't seen each other in a long time, they shared a laugh at how far they'd come.
“It's going to be a tough time for the kids,” Dickson says. “But I think over the years … they're going to understand just how special their dad was.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke.