Roy Halladay's Wife Recalls Ex-MLB Pitcher's Struggles with Chronic Pain, Drugs

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMay 27, 2020

COOPERSTOWN, NEW YORK - JULY 21:  Brandy Halladay speaks on behalf of her late husband, Roy Halladay, during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Clark Sports Center on July 21, 2019 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Brandy Halladay, the widow of two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, has opened up about her husband's struggles with pain and drugs in the last years of his life.

Speaking to ESPN's John Barr, Mike Farrell and Brian Rivera, Brandy recalled a moment in October 2013 when, along with Roy and family friend Steve Trax, made the decision her husband would seek inpatient treatment for drug addiction at a facility in West Palm Beach. 

"I remember sitting in front of the tournament (her son was playing in) 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?" she said. "It was so isolating. ... That's when I realized, we're really not OK."

Brandy said she learned of Roy's "personality of dependence" even before they were married when she found a stack of empty Crown Royal bags inside of a room in his home, but she said he would attempt to explain it by "saying he relished his time alone, unwinding with a few drinks" and that he grew up living a "controlled life ... in a Mormon home and was enjoying his newfound freedom."

Early in the 2001 season, when the Toronto Blue Jays optioned Halladay to the minors after he posted a 10.64 ERA the previous year, Brandy noted the team also sent him to counseling for his on-field struggles and heavy use of alcohol, to the point some teammates nicknamed him "Minibar" because of his habit of drinking in his hotel room. 

During that stint in the minors, Brandy noted Roy was able to cut down on his drinking, but being recalled to the big leagues led to a dependency on medication.

He began using a sedative to help him sleep on nights prior to his starts because "he would get nauseous and throw up before every game" related, in part, to a lifelong fear of disappointing people and social anxiety. 

One crucial turning point in Halladay's career came in his final postseason start for the Philadelphia Phillies during the 2011 season in Game 5 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, as Brandy recalled he felt a pop in his back early in the game. 

"When he came home, he was just in so much pain, and I remember watching him get up out of bed and ... he sneezed," she said. "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."

Halladay would pitch two more seasons for the Phillies, but he only made a combined 38 starts and posted a 5.15 ERA in 218.1 innings. Brandy noted she pushed him to retire amid growing tension at home because of his limited physical state. 

"He couldn't stop playing. In his mind, he had to keep playing no matter what he was doing to himself physically," she said. "I just wanted my husband. I wanted him healthy."

In May 2012, when Halladay was placed on the disabled list, Brandy and Steve Trax said one of his Phillies teammates referred Halladay to a Florida-based doctor who sold him opioids for cash.

Brandy admitted to not knowing Roy was taking drugs until after the 2012 season when he told her he was depending on painkillers after becoming "sick with flu-like symptoms, shaking and sweating in bed" because of withdrawal symptoms. 

"That's when he realized, 'Holy s--t. This is really a problem,'" she said. "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."

After Roy underwent surgery in May 2013 for a bone spur, damaged labrum and rotator cuff, Brandy said she gave him an ultimatum: "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.'"

Halladay initially went to the treatment facility in West Palm Beach, but he "panicked" and left after three weeks because Brandy said someone snuck in a cell phone and he was concerned about the possibility of him being in a drug treatment facility going public. 

Trax recalled a conversation with Halladay after his retirement in which he declared, "Man, normal life is really hard." Roy went back to inpatient drug treatment in 2015 and began seeing a psychiatrist to help treat his depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder. 

On the day Halladay crashed his airplane and died, Brandy noted before he left that he was "a little scattered" and "a little bit sad."

The Pasco County Sheriff's office confirmed on November 7, 2017 that Halladay was killed when his plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board report on the crash noted Halladay was "doing extreme acrobatics and had high levels of amphetamines in his system" when he lost control of the aircraft. 

The official cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma and drowning. 

Roy and Brandy Halladay were married in 1998 and have two sons, Braden and Ryan. During his playing days, he was named to the All-Star team eight times and is one of five pitchers in MLB history to win the Cy Young in both leagues. 

Halladay was posthumously voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019, his first year on the ballot. Brandy gave an induction speech on his behalf at the ceremony in Cooperstown, New York.