April 11, 2016
Two months ago, David Montgomery stood in the middle of a ballroom answering questions about an honor he was about to receive. He was his usual, humble self – but also understood the importance of the name on the award.
Montgomery, the long-time Phillies ownership partner and current chairman was at the Crown Plaza in Cherry Hill to receive the Ed Snider Lifetime Humanitarian Award at the 112th Annual Philadelphia Sportswriters Association Dinner.
“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.”
On Monday, Montgomery was in a far more somber mood. Three and a half hours before his Phillies opened their home schedule at Citizens Bank Park against the San Diego Padres, Montgomery sat behind the dais in the media conference room and offered his condolences to the family of the Philadelphia Flyers founder and Philadelphia sports legend.
“On behalf of our entire organization obviously we were saddened to learn of the passing of Ed Snider,” Montgomery began. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family – his personal family, his Flyers family. I can’t imagine over the last half century anybody in the Philadelphia sports scene having more impact than Ed Snider did. … Our friendship on a professional level was as deep as any. He was clearly a pioneer. He founded a franchise.”
Montgomery spoke, uninterrupted, for nearly 12 minutes.
He kept going after the formal press conference, too, talking with reporters about the impact Snider had on the Philadelphia sports scene – he helped the market’s two broadcast titans, SportsRadio WIP and Comcast SportsNet, off the ground – and was a community leader. Montgomery said the annual Phillies Phestival, which raises money each summer for ALS patient services and research, was heavily influenced by its Flyers predecessor, the Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival.
“Maybe it’s because our seasons marry or because of the continuity of the people involved, but we just did a lot of things together,” said Montgomery. “For me, it’s a personal loss.”
Montgomery and Snider weren’t best buds who went on vacation together or saddled up at the same bar to watch the Eagles on Sundays. Their friendship was more on the professional level.
But, they did watch a couple of games together.
“Ed was kind enough to come over and watch a couple of World Series games with me in 2008,” Montgomery said. “I was invited to watch hockey games with Ed, but I knew better than that.”
Montgomery laughed. Just as the Phillies chairman’s defining personality traits are the kind, calmness he treats and greets everyone at Citizens Bank Park, Snider, although also caring and kind, was well known for his fiery temper that knew no bounds.
Still, Snider reached out to Montgomery two summers ago, when the Phillies leader was battling jaw cancer. Snider was battling his own cancer at the time, although it didn’t become public knowledge until a few weeks after Montgomery underwent surgery.
Montgomery talked about the “tremendous amount of respect” he had for a man who brought two Stanley Cup championships to the city 40 years ago and, in doing so, created an ethos that defines what Philadelphia sports fans want from their pro athletes.
Think of the most popular players and teams across the four major pro sports over the last 40 years. Pete Rose. Buddy Ryan’s Eagles. The 1993 Phillies. Allen Iverson. Chase Utley. Brian Dawkins.
Before they entered the Philadelphia sports scene, not the least bit worried if they left blood on the court or tore their uniform open on a hard slide or tackle, there was Snider’s Broad Street Bullies taking on the NHL, and Russia, too.
“I think this is what really appeals to the Philadelphia sports fan about Ed Snider, he didn’t grow up here, he came from Washington but he came with a passion for sports,” Montgomery said. “He came with a passion to win. You think about the championship teams and what were they known for? They were known for grit and heart, hard-nosed clubs. The Broad Street Bullies. So almost right away Ed became one of us by virtue of the characteristics he brought to the sports scene. For that, he’ll be forever remembered.”