One of my favorite players I watched growing up, Roy Oswalt, retired after 13 seasons. He finishes with 163-102 record, a 3.36 ERA, 1852 Ks, and a 1.21 WHIP. His team always saw him as a leader. They always felt they could win when he came to pitch. Unconventional wisdom started my journey in becoming a fan of his and to better understand this baseball legend and what he meant to me, we have to go back to the beginning.
I first started really getting into baseball and fantasy baseball with my dad around 2001. Back then we did everything by hand; I’m talking spreadsheets, clipboards, multiple pens, bagels, chairs, poster board, and sweatpants. This was the major leagues of fantasy baseball drafts and things were taken seriously. It was a blast. I was kid back then, so my contribution mainly consisted of picking between guys my dad showed me he wanted to draft. That’s when I first saw his name, and something stood out to me about “Roy Oswalt”. I don’t think I even knew what position he played and I certainly didn’t know what team he played for. I just saw his name and knew he was going to be great. Super Smash Bros Melee had just come out, and the secret character Roy was my favorite playable character.
Oswalt was a cool name too. It made me think of Octopuses because his last name starts with ‘O’, octopus start with the letter ‘O’, this guy must be as cool as an octopus! I was naive kid, give me a break… I pictured this crimson haired armored warrior (see right) with seven armlike tentacles throwing baseballs at people (the eighth was for his glove). He wouldn’t have looked out of place fighting the Megazord in an episode of Power Rangers. But that’s what he was to kid me in 2001. More beast than player. I didn’t see one pitch he threw his rookie year, but I saw his stats, and imagined the rest, you could say he was as real as any our fantasy baseball team. I know it’s kind of lame looking back at it now, but it felt really cool at the time. I was ingeniously proud of “picking” this guy and I felt like I was the only guy that knew him, which probably couldn’t have been further from the truth. At one point I’m pretty sure I logged into my elementary school teacher’s fantasy account to make his team better because I was such a genius. I got detention that day, but by then I was obsessed.
I started managing my own fantasy teams around 2004, by then I already gotten a chance to see him pitch. And although my younger self had some pretty unrealistic expectations for the dude, he did not disappoint. Apparently Roy Oswalt was only listed as 6ft. But to me, on the mound he was a giant. His confidence made him look like he could take anybody and with his four plus pitches, he most of the time he did. He rarely walked anyone and he was always challenging hitters inside the zone. He was never fazed by anything. He gives up a HR throwing a fastball inside, next batter, first pitch would be a fastball inside. He never questioned his stuff, he never doubted himself or his ability. He was terrifying for a hitter. But he never seemed to be appreciated like I should have been. Maybe that’s why he always seemed like an underdog, because he spoke like a regular guy during press interviews and he was pretty quite. But this just made me like him even more. I made sure to get him on at least one of my fantasy teams every year. Except in 2010 when I lost the playoffs to a who owned Oswalt, it was punishment for me not drafting him, or at least how I saw it. I made sure to never let that happen again. I bought another Roy Oswalt baseball card in repentance.
Nothing seemed to faze this guy, he clearly loved the game, and he was just so cool about it. There’s a story about how Roy where he basically electrocuted the pain out of his shoulder in his throwing arm. One night working on his truck, and of course he would drive a truck…and fix it up himself, he grabs an electrical wire and can’t let go for a solid a minute. H shrugs it off like it was no big deal, and casually walks back to his house and tells his wifeof the whole ordeal. That career saving and potentially fatal miracles just grow on trees. How great is that?! “Well that worked out great, if only I could get Berkman to do the same thing.” Except Berkamn wasn’t a crazy badass like Roy. The team asked him to pitch and he pitched. He wasn’t intimidated by anyone and he did his job well…exceedingly well.
Well in the 2006 Roy Oswalt recieved that bulldozer after pitching the game clinching performance against the Cardinals. He was rewarded with the bulldozer of his dreams and the world was rewarded with the bobblehead it deserved. In the AL, another Roy was emerging just as dominant as the Astros star. In 2003 Roy “Doc” Halladay won the Cy Young award. Two Roys, two aces, what were the chances of two Roys being this good during the same era? I know people always compare the two because they have the same name and while I loved both I always remained a staunch Oswalt supporter, I always dreamed of them pitching on the same team. Roy and Roy. Then in 2010 Roy Halladay got traded to the Phillies and half way through the season Oswalt would follow suit. Fantasy had become a reality. And although I wasn’t the biggest Phillies fan, I was ecstatic that both Roys could pitch on the same team and potential win a ring. What’s crazier is that both Roys retired this year, with Halladay leading the way again and Oswalt following. Unfortunately too soon for both pitchers, but I love how these two right handers had a connection. Also Berkman retired this year, sad to see him retire but cool to see the top Stros go out together. Roy won’t be without friends when he’s nominated for the Hall of Fame. He’s had a great career, but he probably won’t get in unfortunately.
He played in the left field when the Phillies needed him to. It’s pretty rare for a pitcher to play in the outfield, but it was made even better when he got the 1st out. He could of played there the whole game, he was enjoying himself a whole lot and the fans loved it. One of my favorite moments that year occurred during Game 2 of the NLCS. This was right after Doc’s perfect game, which was amazing as well, but expectations were high, and Roy Oswalt managed to entertain. He scored from second base on a blooper hit to center. He ran right past 3rd base coach, who waved to him to stop, and watched as the throw wouldn’t touch him before sliding home. He knew he wasn’t getting out and I think the center fielder was dumbfounded that Oswalt even attempted to go. This was the climax of the game and he was already casually arm pumping in celebration as he slid across home plate. It was one of the most entertaining games I ever saw.
That year they didn’t win a ring, but things looked bright when Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies in 2011. Both Roys, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, AND Joe Blanton. How this team didn’t create a dynasty is a tragedy. I could have tolerated years of the Mets losing if it only meant I would watch Oswalt and Doc Halladay pitch a little longer for the Phillies. But that didn’t happen.
My feelings only got worse when this legendary quatro seemed to disapparate faster than free food at a college dorm, than Harry Potter apparating in Harry Potter, than waking up during the middle of the night and then blinking and it’s morning. Roy Oswalt was labeled the 4th starter on that legendary staff, when he would have been a #1 on many other teams, and when he left Philly I was heartbroken. He was underappreciated when he was with the Astros overshadowed, he was underappreciated with the Phillies in 2011, and he couldn’t come back in later years with the Rangers…he went back to Texas but it wasn’t the home he was used to. And he couldn’t generate enough of his old magic with the Rockies his last year. By then his body was too old, the miracle electricity had run it’s course.
He couldn’t overpower hitters anymore…he couldn’t fix his arm by grabbing his super tractor anymore either, who knows maybe he tried again. So he retired. It’s sad to see such a promising guy like him not go out on top or without a ring. He had a 163-102 career record. Take out his last 2 riddled years in Colorado and Texas and he’d have a 159-93. Which looks a little better. His resume for the Hall of Fame is promising, but is only half complete. He won’t make it into the Hall because he wasn’t around long enough. Also Derek Jeter announced his retirement plans today, so Roy will be overshadowed in the media…like always. Hopefully he got the respect and attention he deserved in Houston media, because he really only had one day before everyone and their mother will talk about Derek Jeter for the rest of the season. I mean Jeets deserves that recognition, I just wish Roy got a few more hours for people to appreciate him more. Don’t feel bad for him though. He’s probably chilling with his family or plowing on his super bulldozer in his small hometown of Weir, Missouri. He took a job as a baseball agent, but if he doesn’t like that life he can always return to love of hunting, the world ain’t running out of bucks anytime soon…much to Louis CK’s dismay. Roy Oswalt was the 1st player that got me obsessed with fantasy baseball and baseball. I liked him at first for silly reasons, and then loved him when I grew older. You’ll be missed Roy Oswalt, thanks for playing. Thanks for everything.