by Clark Groome
With the Eagles doing well, the 76ers performing just about as expected and the Flyers unexpectedly playing themselves out of playoff contention, three stories, all about baseball, grabbed my attention last week.
First, and most troubling, was the report initiated by Howard Eskin that the Phillies used president David Montgomery’s serious medical problems as an excuse not only to put him on medical leave but to force him out as the team’s CEO.
I was then, and remain now, skeptical of the report. While the Phillies have denied the report, although they did so without much force by saying simply, “There has been no determination made regarding his future status. Phillies ownership will continue to confer with David about their collective vision for the future,” my skepticism isn’t based on what has been reported or on the club’s official reaction to it.
It is based on the reputation the Phillies have as one of the classiest organizations in sports, right up there with baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals, the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers, their South Philly neighbor.
Montgomery himself is widely respected by his MLB peers. When he was first on medical leave, fellow owners and Commissioner Bud Selig all made it clear that he was one of the most respected and liked people in the business.
The media that cover him and the folks who work for him have nothing but good things to say about him, both as a person and as a manager.
During the 17 years he’s been the Phillies’ head honcho he has led a struggling franchise to a leadership position in the sport. He oversaw the construction of Citizens Bank Park, widely viewed as one of the top half-dozen parks in the country.
His leadership also allowed the Phillies to begin its best period on the field, one that featured five consecutive division championships (2007-2011), two World Series appearances (2008, 2009) and one World Championship (2008). Attendance, while off a bit the last couple of years, has been as strong as any team in either league.
With his professional accomplishments and the high regard he has around the city and Major League Baseball, I find it hard to believe that the Phils would replace him at a time when he’s struggling to recover from a draconian bout of jaw cancer.
It may well be time to change the team’s leadership. If that were the case, I would hope it would happen when Montgomery was restored to good health and the team had some time to work with him and others to plan for the future.
If, on the other hand, they eliminate him from his long-held leadership role while he’s working to get well that would make this so-long-respected team into the Bill Cosby of franchises. I just can’t believe they’d do that.
More about Mo’ne
Sports Illustrated, who put the Taney Dragons Mo’ne Davis on its August 25, 2014, cover, has named the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy eighth grader as its 2014 “SportsKid of the Year.”
Shortly after that announcement was made, SCH reported that the young athlete had made its varsity girls basketball team, something that is rare but not unheard of for an eighth grader in the Inter-Ac League of which her school is a part.
“Out” at home
When NBA utility player Jason Collins came out as a gay man 18 months ago it was a huge story. The thought was that many other gay and lesbian athletes would reveal their sexual orientation. It didn’t really happen the way so many predicted.
It was, therefore, something of a surprise last week when 29-year veteran Major League Baseball umpire Dale Scott, 55, confirmed that he is gay and had married Michael Rausch, his companion of 28 years.
Scott, unlike Collins, is at the top of his profession. One of the most respected umpires in the majors, he has been a crew chief since 2001; has worked three All-Star Games (1993, 2001, 2011); has worked a lot of post-season series, including as crew chief for this year’s National League division series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals; and has worked three World Series (1998, 2001, 2004).
What’s most surprising and satisfying about the reports of Scott’s announcement is that almost everybody connected with him on the field – other umpires and players – were aware of his being gay. The fact that it was never an issue, that he was allowed to do his job at a high level without being harassed and the fact that the announcement was so low-key and mostly under the radar indicates one thing: progress.