Halladay lets history sink in for finale
Ace beats rivals in Blue Jays' final game at Yankee Stadium
NEW YORK -- Roy Halladay expects that it probably set in for every member of the Blue Jays at some point on Sunday afternoon. This was Toronto's last visit to Yankee Stadium -- baseball's Cathedral -- and the club's final opportunity to realize exactly what that means.
For the Blue Jays' ace, the moment came when Halladay stood on the mound in the middle of the seventh inning, when the crowd sang along as "God Bless America" soared out of the tower of black speakers high above center field.
Certainly, a 6-2 victory over the Yankees probably helped the players in the visitors' dugout enjoy the day that much more. It wrapped up Toronto's 100th franchise win at the famed ballpark in the Bronx, where fans first flocked to see the Stadium in 1923.
Even Halladay -- known for his extreme focus -- said he allowed history to sink in.
"I didn't try to," Halladay said. "But just standing out there for the seventh inning, yeah, you take a minute and you kind of look around and it sets in a little bit -- all the history and the great players that have played here.
"It's neat to be a part of that. You try not to think about that too much, but I think it definitely, at some point, sets in for everybody that there's been a lot of incredible baseball and history to come through this place."
The Jays (70-66) aimed to make their final trip to The House that Ruth Built a memorable one from the onset, striking for four runs against Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte through two innings. Toronto was helped out by a high sun in a three-run first inning, when New York left fielder Xavier Nady lost sight of a fly ball, which then carried over his head and landed near the warning track for a two-run double from Rod Barajas.
In the second inning, Scott Rolen launched a 1-2 offering from Pettitte down the left-field line, where it sailed into the seats for a solo homer to put the Blue Jays ahead, 4-0. That early outburst was more than ample for Halladay (17-9) to settle into a groove, as he finished with two runs allowed on eight hits over seven innings against the Yankees (72-64).
The pair of blemishes on Halladay's pitching line came courtesy of solo home runs. In the fourth inning, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez drilled a pitch deep to center field for a homer -- the 547th blast of his career. In the sixth, Jason Giambi added another shot -- this time dropping one just over the short porch in right field.
Considering the early offense against Pettitte, the home runs Halladay surrendered hardly mattered.
"To be able to get to [Pettitte] early and then add on a little bit later was great," Halladay said. "Especially in this park, the more runs the better. Then you can get aggressive and, obviously, the home runs don't hurt you as much. It was a great job of getting a good pitcher early."
Toronto claimed a 6-2 lead in the seventh inning, scoring on an RBI single from David Eckstein and plating another run when Marco Scutaro scored from third base on a wild pitch. That four-run cushion quieted the crowd and allowed the Jays to soak in the final innings. Then again, the final result might not have mattered in the grand scheme of things.
That was the case for Jays shortstop John McDonald, who grew up in Connecticut, where some kids dream of one day playing in Fenway Park for the Red Sox or in New York for the Yankees.
"Sometimes, we get really caught up in wins and losses," McDonald said, "when you've really got to appreciate the places we've been able to play. We've played at Fenway in the height of them winning two world championships, and this is the last time the Blue Jays are ever going to play in old Yankee Stadium.
"As someone who grew up in New England, you really cherish the opportunities to play in these places and you want to take them in as much as possible, because you're going to want to pass these memories on to other people. My friends are always going to ask me, 'What was it like to play there?' That's pretty neat just to be asked that question."
When it was all said and done, Halladay finished as Toronto's all-time club leader with 81 strikeouts at Yankee Stadium. He improved to 7-4 at the ballpark -- one win shy of matching Jimmy Key's club record of eight wins in the Stadium. Halladay's 16 career starts at the ballpark are tied for the most in team history with Dave Stieb.
Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells, who went 2-for-3 in the victory, finished as Toronto's all-time hits leader at Yankee Stadium with 75. Wells' 240 at-bats in the batter's box once used by Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle are the most in Jays history as well. For Toronto, the win gave it a 100-124 record at the park.
It was a special day for the Blue Jays, and that includes manager Cito Gaston.
"After batting practice, I usually just walk away from the cage," Gaston said. "Today, I just kind of walked out onto the field, picked up a few balls and just looked around and said, 'Wow, this is your last time on this field.' I have a lot of great memories here."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.