Opinion

RIP David Montgomery: We have lost a beloved friend



David Montgomery became a Phillies employee in 1972 and rose to become chairman and a minority owner over nearly five decades with the organization. (Larry Shenk/Phillies Insider)

Phillies Nation is honored to have Larry Shenk among the ranks of our regular contributors.

“The Baron” is the former Philadelphia Phillies head of community relations, a role in which he served the organization for more than four decades. Larry is also a 2018 inductee to the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame.

In addition to the Phillies alumni and history work which Larry shares with readers here at Phillies Nation, his “Minor League Report” pieces now also run with us all during the season as well.

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To everyone, he wanted to be called David. To everyone, David Montgomery was beloved by, well, everyone.

As the president, Bill Giles set the tone, work hard and have fun. We became a family. When David succeeded Bill, he continued the tradition. David knew every employee by a first name, including scouts and player development personnel not based in Philadelphia and summer interns. He made it a point to visit every minor league affiliate every summer and knew first names there too.

David became an inspiration to all of us since he was detected with cancer in the summer of 2014. Through it all, David didn’t slow down even though he experienced further health issues. This past spring training he took his family and grandchildren to Disney World.

His long-time friend, Ed Rendell described him best, “He runs out every ground ball. He’s relentless when he wants to get something done.”

During the monthly Vice Presidents’ meetings everyone provided topics for discussion and then David would present his list which would often be long and probing. Will never forget the meeting where he calmly told us of his condition and what’s in store. Complete silence enveloped the room. He never once got emotional.

When David first started with the Phillies in 1971, he and I seemed to hit it off. Without a lunch room at the Vet, we often went to the nearby Penrose diner. We had the same waitress; we dubbed her “Mom.” Every item on the menu had a number. “Mom, I’m going to have a 2 today,” he’d say.

This January, he called to see how Julie and I were doing. “Hey, I must tell you. Took a group of people to the Penrose diner after an Eagles. It brought back memories of us having lunch. A great friendship formed.” He paused, gathered himself and said, “Thanks, my friend.”

When the team struggled he was calmly supportive of everyone. When the team was good, he changed gears, demanding everyone do more and do it better. He didn’t scream but he could let you know in no certain terms when you made a mistake. I know.

When I semi-retired into the role as VP of Alumni Relations in 2008, we decided to remember our former players in every way possible. For a deceased Alumnus, how far should we go in sending flowers or a donation? His answer, “If he wore a Phillies uniform for only one day we should remember him.”

A native Philadelphian, David became an ardent Phillies fan as a youngster. I once mentioned the anniversary of a game in which Robin Roberts gave up a lead-off homer and then retired the next 27 batters, May 13, 1954. “I was at that game,” he said.

He was the Phillies. But, he often said, “We’re not the Phillies, we’re the Philadelphia Phillies. You can’t control the Phillies because that’s the team. We can control who we are as an organization in the town. We can control the Philadelphia part. And that’s what I believe is important.”

He was also a pillar in Major League Baseball, serving on many committees, from marketing to labor relations. He was respected by everyone, other owners, the Commissioner and his staff, players, umpires and the player’s union. That’s rare.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred once said, “Nobody says a bad word about Dave for one reason and that is Dave never says a bad word about anybody.” How true.

A large building was erected at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater six years ago. It houses a large weight room, batting cages, pitching mounds and offices for staff. It was nameless until a year ago when every Phillies person in spring training, including all the players, gathered outside this red building for a surprise announcement, the unveiling of the David P. Montgomery Baseball Performance Center. How fitting.

“We lost our voice,” was David’s response when Harry Kalas died 10 years ago this April. Now, we have lost our very special and beloved friend. RIP, David.

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LARRY SHENK IS AUTHOR/EDITOR OF THE PHILLIES.COM ALUMNI SECTION AND PROVIDES REGULAR MINOR LEAGUE REPORT PIECES FROM HIS PHILLIES INSIDER BLOG. PHILLIES INSIDER PIECES RE-PRINTED AT PHILLIES NATION BY PERMISSION OF LARRY SHENK. PHILLIES ALUMNI PIECES WITH HIS PERMISSION ALONG WITH APPROVAL FROM MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL AND THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES.

 

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