Ever wonder about the identity of the mysterious “player to be named later?” On July 1, 1998, when the Mariners unloaded star pitcher Randy Johnson on the Houston Astros for Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen, the player named later was southpaw Halama, a Brooklyn native just about ready to take his sinkers and curves to the big time. Never a pitcher with devastating weapons, Halama induced enough groundballs to go 11-10 in his rookie year in 1999. As the fifth starter in 2000 he again eked out enough outs to win 14 games in his 30 starts, though his 5.08 ERA indicated problems on the horizon.
Halama had a peculiar 2001 season. At the start of the year he struggled to keep the ball down in the strike zone and instead of getting batters to top the ball into the ground, he watched them launch balls into the upper deck. Between April and June he gave up 17 home runs, only two fewer than he gave up in all of 2000. Sent down to Triple-A Tacoma to work on mechanics, he dominated the bush leagues, even throwing the 99-year-old Pacific Coast League‘s first nine-inning perfect game on July 8, 2001. Back with the M’s in August, Halama was relegated to long-relief and spot starter work, but he gave up only five earned runs the rest of the season.
Halama kept a pit bull at his home in New York for eleven years. His dog liked to have the run of the house. Said Halama, “We’ve lost two doors when we tried to keep him in one room.”