Roy Halladay is considered one of the greatest Major League Baseball pitchers of his era, but he tragically died on November 7th, 2017 when he crashed his plane into the Gulf of Mexico. The Hall of Fame pitcher who played for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies apparently had an extreme amount of multiple drugs in his system when crashed the plane and met his end.
Now his family, good friends, teammates, and other people close to Roy are speaking out to address Halladay’s struggles with pain management, drug abuse, and addiction which plagued him throughout his life and ultimately led to his unfortunate death. This is just another of the many stories of a professional athlete using pain killers to play through pain, and then becomes addicted to drugs leading to their heartbreaking death.
The Plane Crash
Approximately one month prior to his death Halladay purchased an Icon A5 which is a light sport two-seat amphibious aircraft. Roy was extremely enthusiastic about the amazing flying capabilities that this aircraft featured as Halladay compared it to a sports car. Halladay’s father, Harry Leroy Halladay II, who was an experienced pilot had warned his son about flying his new plane with caution.
On Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 Halladay decided to go flying over the Gulf of Mexico. Witnesses reported he was flying recklessly as he performed aerial tricks with his newly acquired toy. Roy was said to have been seen making high-pitch climbs as well as steep turns and at times within only 5 feet of the water surface. Apparently, these operations put loads of nearly two times gravity on the aircraft. Obviously, these are extremely risky maneuvers especially when under the influence of drugs.
Roy’s last maneuver consisted of him entering a steep climb, but his velocity decreased to approximately 85 miles per hour causing the propeller driven Icon A5 to swiftly nose dive eventually smashing hard into the water head first. Halladay’s death was a result of blunt force trauma as well as drowning. Roy was only 40 years old at the time of his death.
The Drugs Involved
According to sources, Halladay’s initial autopsy in January of 2018 reveled that he had amphetamines, morphine, and an insomnia drug in his system at the time of his death. At that time they did not disclose the levels of these drugs though. More specifically the intoxicants were identified as zolpidem also known as Ambien (sleeping aid), amphetamine such as Adderall (treats attention deficit disorder), morphine (pain killer), baclofen (muscle relaxer), and fluoxetine (antidepressant).
This was one hell of a drug cocktail to be under the influence of while flying especially while performing the dangerous maneuvers that he was witnessed making. The majority of these medications come equipped with a serious warning about not using them while operating heavy machinery or driving.
Like many other athletes Roy’s issues with addiction originated when he was provided with pain medications to help with chronic back and shoulder pain. In order for him to continue playing through pain and discomfort he proceeded to take the mostly opiate based drugs for extended periods of time which led to his dependency of the narcotics. In Halladay’s case, he seemed to also struggle with other disorders as well. In order to just function normally he was taking an incredible amount of drugs which is obviously discouraged for health and safety reasons.
Halladay as well as his close friends and family knew that he had a problem with his addictions, and he even entered drug rehabilitation centers multiple times in order to try and get better. It seemed that even with the help of treatment centers and the support of his loved ones he was not able to conquer his demons, and it ultimately led to his death in 2017.
Roy’s family, friends, former teammates, and others that were close to him are now speaking out in the attempt to bring awareness to drug abuse and mental illness. They know the importance of using Halladay as another example of what can easily happen to a great person if they become dependent on substances or do not properly treat their disorders. Hopefully we start seeing less of these situations as the opiate epidemic is now being taken seriously. Roy will always be remembered as one of the greatest Major League Baseball pitchers of all time.
Roy Halladay’s Career Accomplishments, Awards, and Honors
The strong right handed pitcher of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies was an 8 time MLB All Star (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011). He was awarded the American League Cy Young in 2003, and he won the National League Cy Young Award in 2010. Halladay led Major League Baseball in wins two different seasons (2003, 2010). On May 29th, 2010 he threw a perfect game, and he pitched only the second MLB postseason no hitter of all time on October 6th, 2010. Roy was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019 as well.
“He needs help. He knows it. I know it,” Roy Halladay’s financial advisor and friend Steve Trax recalls Halladay’s wife Brandy explaining to him.
Trax said that Roy was battling a, “Demon that had a strong hold on him.”
“We talked through it, and it was unanimous,” says Trax.
“It was painful for him. He was a proud guy. He had a lot to be proud of,” Trax remembers.
“I remember sitting in front of the tournament just crying my face off, trying to figure out how I can sit there and be a baseball mom, and not let people see what was really going on. How do you function?” Brandy stated. “It was so isolating. … That’s when I realized, we’re really not OK.”
“I don’t want his end story to be: Roy Halladay’s a drug addict who crashed his plane,” Brandy explained.
“Stick to the task until it sticks to you, for beginners are many and finishers are few,” Roy’s father emphasized to his son.
“The way I saw it, I felt like Roy was pushed,” Roy’s younger sister, Heather, goes on to say, “Maybe he wouldn’t have tried so hard if he wasn’t pushed, or maybe he would’ve pushed himself. There’s no telling there.”
“At times, I had to be firm, but I think he had a lot of latitude in his life,” Roy’s father said. “I didn’t have to be too strict with him.”
Brandy proclaims Roy always had a, “Personality of dependence.”
“Personally and mentally, it crushed ‘Doc,’” says Chris Carpenter a former teammate of Halladay with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I would jump out the window, but with my luck I’d only break my leg and still have to go to the field tomorrow,” Roy once said to his wife at a hotel in Florida.
“Pitchers must have a clue. One must know something is breaking if he is to keep it from shattering.”
“I remember him coming back up,” Carpenter said. “He walked in like he belonged. I remember people on the team commenting on it behind the scenes and being like, ‘Damn, man! This guy’s a completely different dude.'”
“He would get nauseous and throw up before every game,” Brandy stated.
“I pulled my groin,” Halladay explained to his pitching coach Rich Dubee.
“OK, wait one second, I’ve got to get somebody going,” Dubee replied.
“No, you’re not,” Roy responded. “I’m going back out there.”
“The gutsiest six innings you could imagine,” Dubee said. “We did it together.”
“He had somebody put them in our lockers because he didn’t want the attention,” says Dubee. “It represents a human being, not only a baseball player but a human being I had the greatest admiration for. This guy was what you’d want your son to be.”
“When he came home, he was just in so much pain, and I remember watching him get up out of bed and … he sneezed. He fell onto the ground and was sitting on all fours, and he was in so much pain, he couldn’t get back up and he laid there for probably 10 to 15 minutes,” Brandy recalls.
“He couldn’t stop playing. In his mind, he had to keep playing no matter what he was doing to himself physically,” Brandy stated. “I just wanted my husband. I wanted him healthy.”
“Given the level of pain he was under, [opioids] allowed him to get on the field and compete,” says Trax. “And listen, I don’t fault Roy for that, given how I know him and his makeup and his focus and his desire to not fail.”
“That’s when he realized, ‘Holy shit. This is really a problem,'” Brandy proclaimed. “I was so terrified for him. He was terrified. … He literally laid in bed for two and a half weeks, three weeks, and self-detoxed at home, which is so dangerous. But he just laid in bed, and told everybody he had the flu.”
“I said, ‘The more you do this, the more you’re taking away from us as a family. The things that we’ve wanted to do our entire marriage, our entire life, we’re not going to be able to do with you because you’re going to be in a wheelchair if you don’t stop.'”
“I remember telling him, ‘If this is truly what you want to do, you’re doing it without us. I’m not going to watch you do this anymore,'” Brandy said.
“He’d be in his locker and I was right next to him, and I tried to talk to him. You felt like he wasn’t there,” the former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick remembers. “You could tell that he was hurting and he was trying to feel better. It was just terrible to see.”
Dubee recalls Roy being, “Glassy-eyed a couple times.”
“I did have one of our players, a player he respected greatly, confront him about it, and then it kind of … went away,” says Dubee.
“Speaking with doctors, they feel like at this point, if I can step away and take some of that high-level pressure off of it, it will hopefully allow me to do some regular things and help out with the kids’ teams,” Halladay stated.
“Man, how the fuck do you do this?” Trax recalls Roy asking him.
“What are you talking about?” asks Trax.
“Man, normal life is really hard,” Halladay retorted.
“I just felt that it wasn’t safe,” Brandy said. “I didn’t feel that mentally he was in a place that he should be flying. He was trying to figure out how to manage the pain.”
Roy’s father said he, “Observed him making decisions that he considered risky.”
His father who was a pilot remembers trying to explain to him, “That there is very little risk tolerance in aviation.”
“I could see the visible signs. There were days when I knew he was having to take pain medication because one of the adverse effects was the sweating. He profusely sweat.”
“They sat us down and told us, this is the deal,” his son Braden said. “Honestly, there was a little bit of relief.”
“He said, ‘Are you disappointed in me?'” says Roy’s father. “He was afraid to talk to me about that. I don’t know why. I think that he thought that I would be disappointed.”
“It was funny, after I got the ring, I was messing with him,” Braden stated. “I was like, ‘Well, now I guess I’m the only Halladay with a championship ring.’ I was there for his surreal moments. For him to be there for mine, it was awesome.
The NTSB explained that, “The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude.”
“What is the situation with the medication? You cannot mix that with flying,”
“He wasn’t taking any medication.”
“Do not show off.”
Halladay previously posted on Twitter: “Flying the Icon A5 low over the water is like flying a fighter jet!“
“My concern was after he got the airplane, he started talking about how sporty it was, and what a sports car it was,” Roy’s father remembers him saying and he texted Roy: “Be careful with that thing.”
Brandy recalls Roy being, “A little scattered that day. A little bit sad.”
Roy texted his wife: “I’m so sorry. I should’ve just gone with you, another wasted day.”
“I’m so glad that I wrote back,” Brandy replied, “I’m not mad at you, I was just frustrated. I just wanted you to go with me and I love you.”
“Witnesses saw the airplane flying very low, between 5 and 300 feet, over the water. Steep turns and high-pitch climbs,” according to the NTSB.
“I hope he makes it.”
A witness Allan Dopirak said, “He definitely had pulled up. There’s no doubt about it,”
“Tell me you’re not flying today. There was a small plane crash right behind my house.”
Brandy texted Halladay: “Please tell me where you are.”
“He called me back and he said, ‘Brandy, there’s a sheriff here, he needs to talk to you.’ And he was crying. I knew. I mean, at that point I knew.”
“That was brutal.”
“I threw it around my neck, and that’s when I felt him,” Braden stated.
Dr. Jon Thogmartin who was the chief medical examiner for Pasco and Pinellas counties at that time and who performed Roy’s autopsy said, “Anybody with these types of drugs in their system, I wouldn’t let ’em drive me, fly me, be my bus driver, anything. That would be ill-advised.”
The NTSB’s factual report states, Halladay, “Reported no medical conditions and no use of medications to the FAA”
His wife Brandy said, “Roy would want everyone to know that people are not perfect. We’re all imperfect and flawed in one way or another. We all struggle.”
“The only one that knows is him, and he’s not here to tell us,” Roy’s father goes on to say, “I’m just going to have to accept that I’ll never know exactly what did take place that day.”
“The only thing it can do is hurt if it’s something I don’t want to hear,” Braden said.
“You can still struggle but still have a good intention,” says Brandy. “His intention wasn’t to take these pills. … He still wanted to be a good person. I think that’s the hardest part is I know what was in his heart. I know what he wanted. He just couldn’t do it. And that’s the heartbreaking part.”