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Former MLB star Halladay dies in plane crash

Roy Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher who retired from baseball following the 2013 season, died when his plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, Nov. 7. He was 40.

Halladay’s ICON A5, a small, single-engine aircraft, went down around noon on Tuesday off the coast of Pasco County, Fla., just north of Tampa. The Pasco County Sherriff’s Office marine unit responded to the accident and found that the serial number of the plane involved matched that of the plane owned by Halladay. Roughly an hour later, Halladay was confirmed to have been piloting the aircraft and was found dead in shallow water near some mangroves. Police said that there were no passengers aboard the plane. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the incident, as it remains unclear what caused the aircraft’s erratic flight. Witnesses in the area claimed that Halladay had been “flying like that all week. Aggressively.”

“All of us at [Major League Baseball] are shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic passing of former Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, including his wife, Brandy, and two sons, Ryan and Braden, his friends and countless fans, as well as the Blue Jays and Phillies organizations.”

Halladay received his pilot’s license shortly after retiring from baseball and tweeted photos last month of himself standing next to his new ICON A5 as part of the plane’s marketing campaign. Halladay said in a video promoting the ICON A5 that he had “been dreaming about flying since I was a boy” because his father was a corporate pilot, but “was only able to become a pilot once I retired from baseball.” The terms of Halladay’s baseball contract had prevented him from getting his pilot’s license while he was a player.

Halladay’s wife was originally opposed to the idea of him buying an aircraft.

“Hard. I fought hard. I was very against it,” Brandy Halladay said in the same promotional video before explaining why she eventually understood and approved of her husband’s desire for the plane. The video was removed from YouTube on Tuesday following the news of Halladay’s death.

The A5 was a recent model from ICON Aircraft, an aircraft design and production company based in Vacaville, Calif. The plane is a two-seat “light-sport aircraft” that is able to land on water. Halladay had owned his A5 for less than a month and was among the first to fly the model, as there are only about 20 in existence, according to ICON Aviation’s website.

This isn’t the first fatal accident involving the A5. Two ICON employees– the company’s lead test pilot and the director of engineering– died in a crash in an A5 in Napa County, Calif. The NTSB reported the probable cause was “the pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude.”

“We were devastated to learn that former MLB pitcher Roy Halladay died today in an accident involving an ICON A5 in the Gulf of Mexico,” ICON Aircraft said in a statement. “We have gotten to know Roy and his family in recent months, and he was a great advocate and friend of ours. The entire ICON community would like to pass on our deepest condolences to Roy’s family and friends. ICON will do everything it can to support the accident investigation going forward, and we will comment further when more information is available.”

Halladay was an eight-time All-Star and went 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA over the course of an spectacular 16-year career with the Blue Jays and Phillies. In 12 years with Toronto, Halladay accumulated a 148-76 record and a 3.43 ERA. He won the American League Cy Young Award in 2003 when he led the league in wins (22), innings pitched (266), complete games (9), shutouts (2), games started (36) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.38) while posting a 3.25 ERA.

The Blue Jays never made the postseason during Halladay’s time there, but the right-hander was finally given a taste of October baseball when he was traded to Philadelphia after the 2009 season. Halladay’s 2010 season in which he went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA was arguably the best of his career; he threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins during the regular season. Then, in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds, Halladay became the second pitcher in history to throw a postseason no-hitter, joining the Yankees’ Don Larsen, who accomplished the feat with a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series. Halladay won the National League Cy Young Award in 2010, joining Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens as the only pitchers in history to win a Cy Young Award in both leagues. Halladay was also a member of the Phillies team that won 102 games in 2011.

In 2012, Halladay started experiencing shoulder issues that resulted in several stints on the disabled list over the next two years and his eventual retirement. On Dec. 9, 2013, he signed a ceremonial one-day contract with the Blue Jays so he could retire with the team with which he began his career.

Halladay will be remembered for his impressive work on the field as well as his generosity in the community. The Halladay Family Foundation has aided charities, hunger relief and animal rescue, and led to Halladay being nominated several times for the Roberto Clemente Award, given by Major League Baseball to players for sportsmanship and community involvement.

Other baseball players who died in plane crashes include Pittsburgh Pirates Hall-of-Famer Roberto Clemente in a relief mission from Puerto Rico while traveling to assist earthquake victims in Nicaragua on New Year’s Eve in 1972; Yankees catcher Thurman Munson while piloting his own plane near his home in Canton, Ohio, in 1979; and Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, while flying his own plane in New York City in 2006.

Halladay will be a strong candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2019.

Halladay’s family held a public memorial at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Fla., the spring training home of the Phillies as well as the home venue for their Class A-Advanced affiliate, the Clearwater Threshers.

Sources: ESPN, New York Post, USA Today

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