The overlooked Phillie

    There’s a forgotten moment from the Phillies World Series championship in 2008 that I’ll always treasure.

    It was when the Fox TV crew turned to Phils President David Montgomery to present the World Series trophy. What did Montgomery say? Most owners would talk about how proud they are of their guys, how they overcame adversity, believed in each other, etc.

    Montgomery got to all that, but the first thing he did was to congratulate the Tampa Rays on a terrific season.

    Which surprised no one who knows Dave Montgomery.

    In a world of sports franchise owners over-stocked with ruthless egomaniacs, Montgomery stands out as a man of both savvy and principle, a leader the city can be proud of.

    I got to know him a little in 2000, when I was a newspaper reporter covering negotiations between the city and its pro baseball and football franchises over the construction of new stadiums.

    In contrast to the Eagles, Montgomery and the Phils never threatened to leave the city if they didn’t get what they wanted. They never acted as if they were owed a new ballpark because conditions at Veterans Stadium were substandard.

    I never liked the idea of public subsidies for pro sports franchises, and when I complained to Montgomery about that, and ticket prices, and the inequitable revenue structure in the game, he was never anything but a gentleman.

    Montgomery is a true Philadelphia guy – went to Penn, took an entry level job with the Phillies 40 years ago, and worked his way up.

    When he became the team president and the Phils weren’t winning, he was a regular whipping boy for the sports talk stations. He would come on their shows and explain his approach with patience and good cheer, because he understood that was part of the job. And he knew how passionate Philadelphia fans are about their teams.

    Now that Montgomery and his management team have built a juggernaut, it’s all different of course. Now he’s as an organizational genius, a baseball savant with a willingness to spend for talent and gift for making the right moves.

    That can all change in a month if the team hits a losing streak. The sports jocks will start ripping him again, calling him a loser, a weasel, a skinflint – nothing personal, really, it’s their job to be angry and provocative.

    But he’ll still be the same guy, and somebody I’ll be proud of.

    So on opening day, when everybody is juiced about Cliff Lee and Halladay, worried about Chase, and wondering about right field, I’ll be looking at that packed ballpark, thinking of Dave Montgomery, and smiling.

    I’m happy for his championship, his 123 straight sellouts, and the joy he shares with the fans who ought to give him a little more credit.

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