By Sam Bush
Phillies legend Roy Halladay and Yankees great Mariano Rivera will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in August.
And if Halladay were here, he would surely acknowledge that closer Rivera helped nudge him over the Cooperstown border.
Halladay died on Nov. 7, 2017, at age 40 when the small plane he was piloting crashed into shallow water near Holiday, Fla. In one of his final interviews, he enthusiastically recalled a tutorial with Rivera at the 2008 All-Star Game, and a tip that gave him his final burst of brilliance.
“I’d been watching Mariano a lot, and my cutter was pretty good, but it wasn’t always consistent,” Halladay told the New York Times in March 2017 at a picnic table beneath palm trees at the Phillies’ training complex in Clearwater, Fla. “There were times where it would be really good and other times when it just wasn’t as effective. Mariano really helped me.”
With his cutter, Halladay suspected that the problem was his thumb position. Rivera was a legend by then, on his way to a record 652 career saves, and his name became synonymous with the cutter, a pitch he had found by accident but had mastered like no other. He confirmed Halladay’s guess.
“Sure enough,” Halladay said, “he told me that one of the keys for him was making sure he wrapped his thumb under and got it on the opposite side of the ball.”