One of the biggest criticisms detractors of David Montgomery had was that as the Principle Owner and Managing Partner of the Philadelphia Phillies he was too nice a guy. His “we’ll get ‘em next year” demeanor just wasn’t competitive enough to be top man at a major league ball club.
They were, quite resoundingly, wrong.
As a human, as the friend he was to every one he came in contact with, as a family man who considered the entire Phillies organization, the fans and the entire city of Philadelphia as family, that nice guy demeanor has created a legacy that has touched each and every one of us and that will last for generations, if not longer.
The event the Phillies had to honor the life of David Montgomery at Citizen’s Bank Park on a beautiful Thursday afternoon was a tribute to that nice guy and fittingly it was held at the monument that he erected to symbolize his love for the family that includes all of us as fans and citizens of this city.
From baseball luminaries like commissioner Rob Manfred to Philadelphia figures like Ed Rendell, the theme of the memorials were all the same: This guy cared, and he cared deeply. He cared about you and he cared about me and that care was exhibited in the way the organization treats its staff, from the cafeteria workers to the star shortstop, to the fans and the city of Philadelphia itself. He knew your name.
Rob Manfred was the first to speak and he called David “his best friend.” Not that he and David were best friends—they were close, but baseball’s top ranking executive meant that David was the best example of a friend that he had. It was obvious that Manfred not only liked David, but also just flat out respected the hell out of him.
He told a story about how during the 2008 World Series, some Tampa Bay Rays fans had complained about their treatment by Phillies fans and he had been dispatched to handle the complaints. When Manfred had told David about it, Monty, as his friends called him, was taken aback and firmly disputed the veracity of the grievances, “dismissing quickly” the notion that his fans were out of line. Manfred continued “David suggested that maybe the Tampa fans…were just...too…sensitive.”
Governor Ed Rendell followed, and the theme of friendship continued. Rendell and Monty were classmates at Penn and he recalled the two of them going to games at Connie Mack Stadium, and how big a Phillies fans Monty was throughout his life. He recalled a story told to him by David’s parents about how a five-year-old, David would sneak a transistor radio under the covers with him well past his bedtime to listen to his beloved Phillies.
“Imagine,” Rendell pondered, “telling that five-year-old David that he would one day be the boss of his favorite player, Richie Ashburn.” It was Rendell who would go on to introduce David Montgomery to Bill Giles, the Phillies president who would first hire David to sell tickets.
Rendell brought up the second major contribution that David Montgomery’s legacy will leave behind: Phillies Charities. David believed heavily in the theory of corporate citizenship, and it was he who steered the Phillies toward becoming the charitable powerhouse they are today. David’s contributions are immeasurable, and because of who he was, that philanthropy will live on within the Phillies organization forever.
Jimmy Rollins and Larry Bowa, the two greatest shortstops to ever wear the red pinstripes, both spoke at length about Montgomery’s treatment of the players and how when they went to other organizations, they never experienced the same amount of familial sense that Montgomery instilled in his organization.
Yes, David Montgomery was a nice guy, a philanthropic guy, a guy who touched the lives of everyone he came in contact with. And to answer those allegations that he was “too nice” to head up a Major League Baseball organization, all you had to do Thursday afternoon was look up from the podium placed in front of the pitchers mound from where these guys were speaking.
You’d have seen the flags representing the two World Series Championships and five National League pennants that a nice guy helped win, and when you see them, remember that they were won with the integrity and kindness that this man imbued in the organization. The Phillies were a better organization—win, lose or draw—because of him, and he’ll surely be missed.