The Philadelphia sports world was shocked this week by the loss of our beloved former pitching ace, Roy “Doc” Halladay, who died in a plane crash at the age of 40. Listening to the coverage on the news, I couldn’t help but think back to Roberto Clemente, a hall of fame Puerto Rican born player who died in 1972 in a plane crash delivering aid supplies to Nicaragua.
In the sporting world, at times it may seem increasingly difficult to find players whose superb conduct on the field matches their conduct off of it. Yet in an age of steroid-ripped baseball, Roy Halladay was a player who won our love and affection for taking no shortcuts and being a mensch. Yes, he had an all-star work-ethic. However, a friend of mine, a former sports journalist, recalls how even though he worked a small periodical, Doc was always gracious and kind with his time for interviews. At the time of his death, aside from dedicating his time to his family, he was giving back to the game by coaching two youth baseball teams.
Our rabbis of blessed memory teach (BT Shabbat 31a) that there are several questions that we get asked when we are called to judgment. Writer Ron Wolfson has even made this into a book called: The Seven Questions You’re Asked in Heaven. Among them are questions like, “were you honest in business?” and “did you set aside time to study Torah?”
In memory of Roy Halladay this week, I’d like to add one more for us all to contemplate as we enter into Shabbat: “were you a dugma and mensch, an exemplar not only on the field, but off of it?”
I suspect that somewhere, although he was taken from us much too soon, Roy Halladay, like Roberto Clemente before him, has passed with flying colors.