Bus Campbell, the Colorado pitching guru who took a 12-year-old Roy Halladay under his wing and added him to his legend of pitchers from the state that he groomed for the big leagues, once said he didn’t know if he would be alive to watch Halladay be elected into the Hall of Fame.
But, Campbell added, he would be watching from heaven.
Well, Halladay was elected to Cooperstown on Tuesday, along with Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina. The announcement came just one year, two months and 16 days after Halladay died in a private plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
Knowing Bus, he probably spent the day in heaven with “Leroy,” Halladay’s first name, but one that few people other than Bus Campbell would dare use in referencing the right-hander.
He became the first player who had passed away and was elected by in his first year of on the BBWAA ballot since Christy Mathewson in the first Hall of Fame election ever back in 1936.
Along with the election of Halladay, former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera became the first player to ever be elected by a unanimous vote, and Edgar Martinez became the first DH elected by the members of the BBWAA in what was his 10th and final year on the ballot.
Those three were joined by pitcher Mike Mussina, who received 76.7 percent of the vote, giving the Class of 2019 four inductees elected by the BBWAA voters, equaling the most since the original election in 1936 when Mathewson was elected along with Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner. And the four elected players this year brings to 16 the number of electees in the last five years, breaking the record of 15 set in the span from 2014-18.
There was an excitement for Rivera in light of his unanimous election, and Martinez in light of this having been his final year on the BBWAA ballot.
But it was hard to overshadow the emotions involved in the election of Halladay, underscored by a statement issued by his widow, Brandy:
Halladay never forgot the impact Campbell had on his life and turned to him through his pro career for help, including when Halladay was sent from the Blue Jays back to Class A Dunedin to work out mechanical issues. While the likes of Mel Queen took public credit for revamping Halladay, it was Campbell, who Halladay would send videos to critique, and who Halladay would call every night to talk with about his progress.
Their relationship went back to Halladay’s grade school days. Halladay’s father initially approached Campbell about working with Halladay when Roy was eight. Campbell told him to check back when Halladay turned 15.
At the age of 12, however, Campbell relented and the rest, as they say is history. It was a little-known history, however, because that’s the way Campbell was. He refused to take money from players he worked with, and he never wanted public attention.
“My father took me to meet him and we set up lessons,” said Halladay. “He never took any money. It used to frustrate us. When newspapermen used to phone him and ask about kids he’d say, ‘I’ll answer any questions as long as you don’t put my name in the story.’ He said he received enough (of a payment) watching the kids pitch. He didn’t need anything else.”
Halladay learned his lessons well. In a 16-year career that began with the Blue Jays, who made him a first-round draft pick out of Arvda West High School on the recommendation of Campbell (who was their area scout at the time), and Phillies, Halladay compiled a 203-105 record, a .659 winning percentage. His 67 complete games were the most by any pitcher since his debut in 1998. He struck out more than 200 batters in five seasons, and eight times pitched more than 200 innings.
He was an eight-time All-Star, two-time Cy Young Award winner, and threw two no-hitters in 2010 (a perfect game during the regular season and another one in the NL Division Series).
Martinez became only the fifth player elected in his final year of eligibility, joining Red Ruffing (1967), Ralph Kiner (1975), Jim Rice (2009) and Tim Raines (2017). His impact as a DH is underscored by Major League Baseball created the Edgar Martinez award, which goes annually to the player considered the best DH in the game that year.
In his 18-year career he hit .312 with 309 home runs and 514 doubles. A seven-time All-Star, Martinez finished in the top five in on-base percentage 10 times and won two batting titles.
Rivera was a 13-time All-Star, who spent his 19-year career with the Yankees. He joined Rod Carew as the only Panamanian-born Hall of Famers. He had a sub-2.00 ERA in 17 seasons, and finished as the all-time leader in saves and games finished.
Mussina split his career between the Orioles and Yankees, working 200 innings 11 times in his career, finishing in the top five in ERA seven times, and receiving Cy Young Award votes nine times. He compiled a career record of 270-153. Only two pitchers whose career began in 1901 or later have more wins and are not in the Hall of Fame – Tommy John (288) and Jim Kaat (283).