CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Roy Halladay tossed a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter, all in the same year. He also won a Cy Young Award in each league, has been to eight All-Star games, and is one of the best pitchers in baseball history.
Yet for all his accomplishments on the mound, Halladay finds himself talking more about snakes these days.
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Despite being outpitched by his good buddy, Chris Carpenter, in Game 5 of the NLDS in which St. Louis upset Philadelphia 1-0, Halladay’s legend grew a bit this offseason for a heroic effort far from the ordinary.
Halladay, Carpenter and some friends were on a fishing trip in the Amazon when they rescued a fisherman who had been bitten by an Anaconda.
As word of the story leaked, various accounts exaggerated Halladay’s role in the rescue. The Phillies’ right-hander set the record straight on Tuesday.
“I was not wrestling snakes. I was nowhere near snakes,” Halladay said. “We were just driving back. We had been fishing all day and we were on the boat driving back and we happened to see a guy sitting on the shore line without clothes. We couldn’t talk to him. The guides had to talk to him. They were speaking Portuguese. He had been attacked by a snake and escaped, but it had ripped the engine off the boat and left all his stuff out in the middle of the river. So we picked up his stuff and drove him back to his tribe, I guess you would call it.”
So much for Halladay diving underwater to fight off a killer snake and save a man’s life.
“By far, I’ve told that story more than any other story I’ve ever had,” Halladay said. “And I’ve got the guys I went fishing with to thank for leaking it. It was quite an experience.”
Now that spring training has opened, Halladay can get back to doing what he does best. Since arriving in a blockbuster trade with Toronto in Dec. 2009, Halladay has lived up to enormous expectations. He’s 40-16 with a 2.40 ERA, 17 completes game and five shutouts in his two seasons with the Phillies.
All those numbers are quite impressive. But he’s still looking for that elusive World Series ring.
“I realize that I’m not getting younger,” Halladay said. “I’m probably going to play less going forward than I’ve played already, so I understand that. But you know, the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me was coming here. I’ve given myself two chances to be in the playoffs and try to be in the World Series that I wouldn’t have had in a lot of other places, let alone where I already was.”
Halladay broke in with the Blue Jays on Sept. 20, 1998, and stayed with the organization through 2009.In his last season there, he went 17-10.
“So to this point, I have no regrets. If I go the rest of my career and never get another shot, I’ll have no regrets. That being said, that doesn’t mean it means less to me to try to do that. But I wanted that chance and I enjoyed that chance and I’m looking forward to that chance again,” he said. “But the window is getting closer, and it would be nice when you do go away, to go away as a world champion. I think any player would want that.
“And I definitely do.”
With Halladay anchoring a staff that features two other aces — Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels — the Phillies are strong favorites to win their sixth straight NL East title. Winning another World Series is all that matters to this group, however.
The Phillies have finished with the best record in the majors two consecutive years and set a franchise-record with 102 wins last season. But they lost to the eventual World Series winner in the postseason both times. San Francisco eliminated Philadelphia in six games in the 2010 NLCS, and Carpenter and the Cardinals knocked the Phillies out in the first round in 2011.
“It hasn’t gone the way we wanted to go,” Halladay said. “The drive is always going to be there. As long as I play, I want to win as much as I can. I still feel like this is the best place to do it. We’ve hit teams that were peaking at the right time and playing better than they were at any point in the season. We realize we like to hit our peak a little better. But we have talent on this team to overcome playing teams like that. It’s also important for us to play because we want to be there not because we have to do something.”
Halladay, who turns 35 in May, has shown no signs of slowing down as he gets older. In fact, he’s improved each year. Halladay was 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA two years ago. He followed that up by going 19-6 with a career-best 2.35 ERA last season.
Known for his work ethic, Halladay had already thrown six bullpen sessions before even coming to camp. He’s usually the first player to show up at the ballpark, waking up early to finish his workout before others begin their day.
“I feel like I can go out and pitch all the time as long as I take care of the stuff I need to inside,” Halladay said. “Whether it’s less bullpen, more arm work, less arm work, I can adjust it in there and hopefully continue to maintain the same level on the field. And that’s more important than a pitch count or anything like that. If I can monitor my in-between work, I feel like I can maintain a certain level on those game days.”