February 01, 2016
David Montgomery presided over the best era of Phillies baseball in the 133 years of the franchise’s existence.
In the last two years, he’s stepped back to a smaller, quieter role as chairman. It’s coincided with a bout with cancer in his jaw.
But the 69-year-old Philadelphia native is still active in his current role, both within the organization and, as always, in the Delaware Valley community at large. His contributions have not gone unnoticed.
Montgomery was the recipient of the Ed Snider Lifetime Humanitarian Award at the 112th Annual Philadelphia Sportswriters Association Dinner on Monday night at the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill.
“It’s special,” Montgomery said. “And it’s special that it’s named after Ed. … He’s a great sportsman, has the passion, and is a pioneer. I’m delighted to be receiving an honor in his name.”
“Right now we’re acquiring young talent. Some will surprise us and some will disappoint when we get down (to Clearwater). The good news is we have enough (young talent) that I think we’ll have some pleasant surprises."
A Who’s Who of Phillies executives were in attendance for Monday’s event to show their appreciation for Montgomery, including team president Andy MacPhail, chairman emeritus Bill Giles, executive vice president Michael Stiles, senior vice president David Buck, and first-year vice president and general manager Matt Klentak.
“I’ve been coming to these (dinners) since 1972,” said Montgomery, who has undergone more surgery since his original diagnosis in May of 2014 but his cancer remains in remission. “I’ve probably sat in the audience some 40 times. Frankly, I remember that we’d build our whole offseason entertainment (schedule) around this. … The tradition continues. I think it speaks volumes to Philadelphia as a sports city. We deserve to have a sports banquet every year.”
And Montgomery is more than deserving of an honor recognizing his work.
In addition to spearheading the Phillies philanthropy efforts, Montgomery sat in the president’s chair when the organization built a ballpark that reshaped the franchise and became a nightly go-to place for summer nights in South Philly; he sat in the president’s chair when the Phillies agreed to a TV contract with Comcast worth more than $2.5 billion, a deal that puts the team in prime position to contend with anyone, anywhere, for the foreseeable future; and he sat in the president’s chair and helped build a five-time division, two-time NL pennant, and 2008 World Championship team.
Sure, the boom that was 2003-2011 went bust in the last four seasons. The fact that Montgomery and the baseball operations department tried to keep their core players together around for a year or three too long has been well documented; they understood their loyal fans’ connections to players like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, and it clouded their vision of how to take the team into the future.
Montgomery is obviously still attached to those players, franchise icons that helped deliver the aforementioned World Series championship and the unforgettable parade that followed, and he admitted it was more than a little strange tuning into postseason games in October and seeing Cole Hamels in a Texas uniform and both Rollins and Utley in Dodger blue.
“Obviously for me it was weird,” Montgomery said. “But the reality was it was the right thing. I’m pleased with the job (former general manager) Ruben (Amaro Jr.) did in his work, the deal for Cole he did very well.”
Amaro’s replacement, Klentak, continued the firesale that began 14 months ago when he dealt rising closer Ken Giles to the Houston Astros in December. Montgomery is OK with seeing fan favorites depart because he is more than aware of the bigger picture.
“I think (Matt’s) decision to trade Kenny was the right one based on where we are,” Montgomery said. “Right now we’re acquiring young talent. Some will surprise us and some will disappoint when we get down (to Clearwater). The good news is we have enough (young talent) that I think we’ll have some pleasant surprises.
“I look forward not only to see how the people who came along well last year do, whether it’s (Maikel) Franco, or (Aaron) Nola, (Odubel) Herrera and what kind of years they have, but in addition it’s going to be fun to watch what goes on down below them this year, how quickly do the (J.P.) Crawfords and (Nick) Williamses and those guys come along. Somebody was saying we’re going to have to play an awful lot of ‘B’ games in Clearwater with all of these pitchers now.”
Montgomery will surely be in attendance to see such games at Bright House Field and beyond in the next two months in Florida. Entering his 46th season with the Phillies, there’s little baseball Montgomery misses, regardless of the title underneath his name on a business card.
Montgomery accomplished more than almost all of his peers in Philadelphia over the last quarter century, with the only possible exception being the man whose name is on the award he took home on Monday night. But he’s not one to boast or self-congratulate. His personality is the exact opposite, actually: he’s the guy in the room who is eager with a smile and easy with a handshake for all in a hotel conference room filled with folks from all walks in the Philadelphia sports world.
Montgomery isn’t running the day-to-day operations at One Citizens Bank Way anymore and hasn’t done so for nearly 18 months. But he’s content with passing the baton to the next generation and eager to see what comes next for his beloved baseball team.
“I’m really pleased,” Montgomery said. “I’ve had the opportunity to know Andy (MacPhail) for 30 years. I’ve known Matt (Klentak) for about four months. I’ve known (assistant GM) Ned Rice for a month. I think we’re in great hands, I really do. My little commercial (for the Phillies) would be that I think we’re going to have a very interesting 2016. And I think with the work that we’re doing, the future will turn pretty quickly.”