by Clark Groome
When Wyndmoor’s David Montgomery, 72, died on May 8 after a gallant five-year battle with cancer, nearly everyone in Philadelphia felt they’d lost a friend.
Best known for his 48 years working for the Philadelphia Phillies, Montgomery has been the subject of unanimously glowing tributes since his death.
Some of the headlines about him capture what was his true essence: “Phillies Chairman David Montgomery wanted to know more about his employees than just their names,” “Phillies chairman David Montgomery was the face of courage and grace in his final years,” “A remembrance of Phillies chairman David Montgomery, who made everyone feel like family” and “Philadelphia, baseball world mourn David Montgomery.” So do I.
The details of his life, well-known after the flurry of coverage after his death, deserve repeating.
A Roxborough native, Montgomery graduated from the William Penn Charter School in 1964. After four years at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 1968, he did some time in the military before returning to Penn’s Wharton School for an MBA, a degree he received in 1971.
His love of sports kept him coaching at PC and Germantown Academy.
In 1971, just as Veterans Stadium was opening, Montgomery got a job selling tickets for the Phillies. He never left. He rose through the ranks until he was named president and general partner in 1997. For the next 17 years, he was the boss. His personal concern for his employees, and his knowledge of their families and lives outside of baseball, made the people who worked for him feel blessed indeed.
And don’t forget his two most important and respected accomplishments. The success he and chairman Bill Giles had in getting the state-of-the-art, fan-friendly Citizens Bank Park built so that the team also under construction could put on an extraordinary five-year run from 2007 to 2011, winning the division each year and making appearances in the World Series in 2008 and 2009, winning it all in 2008.
If you look at the team today, several of the folks in advisory roles – Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel and Ed Wade, to name three – were all fired on Montgomery’s watch. None of them, they said following his death, would want to work anywhere else.
This season, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are all retiring as Phillies, just as many former players who left to apply their trade elsewhere have done in the last few years.
Their reasons: the sense of family and caring that the organization played in their lives.
When the jaw cancer struck in 2014, he fought it with a spirit that was both upbeat and without complaint.
It’s hard to write about Montgomery without getting personal. Not only did I know him as a baseball man and interview subject (I interviewed him close to two dozen times since 2000), he and I were both members of the same church. Both before he was sick and after, he was always more interested in talking about what I was doing that about himself.
Interviewing him was a treat. In 2015, he was honored by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association as the recipient of the Ed Snider Lifetime Distinguished Humanitarian Award. When we were talking about the honor, he said the following:
“I don’t think of myself as a humanitarian, but I do think of the team as such.”
For anyone covering anything in the media, a lot of subjects give the impression that we all are necessary nuisances. Not Montgomery.
“To do a job in sports,” he said in that 2015 Local article, “you have to recognize the responsibility to cooperate with those who cover you. I’ve always felt I was fortunate to understand what it’s like to be a Philadelphia sports fan. I am one and have always thought that we should do everything we could to cooperate with the media, [which is] the link to your fan base. You have to have credibility. Then there’s mutual respect. It’s not that hard. It really isn’t.”
Over the last couple of years the Phillies, Major League Baseball, and Philadelphia have honored Montgomery in several ways.
Last spring, the indoor practice complex at the Phillies’ spring training complex was named the David P. Montgomery Baseball Performance Center.
Because of Montgomery’s hope that the 2026 All-Star Game would be part of Philadelphia’s celebration of the United States semiquincentenial (250th birthday), MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the Phillies had indeed been awarded the game. He made it clear that it was because of Montgomery’s enthusiasm and commitment that the game would be played here.
Montgomery has also received the Allan H. “Bud” Selig Executive Leadership Award from the Professional Baseball Scouts Association, and has been honored by the Mural Arts Program, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia and the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. Daisy Field, the field in Roxborough on which he played baseball as a kid, was renamed for him last November.
He was recently honored by the Fairmount Park Conservancy as the recipient of the Centennial Award for Civic Leadership, and was named as a winner of the John Wanamaker Athletic award, a lifetime achievement award for his work bringing the city’s sports teams together.
His passion for and commitment to baseball are only part of the story, He was devoted to Penn basketball, hardly ever missing a game with his friend, Ed Rendell, the former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor.
That’s a lot of history.
The Phillies have announced that there will be a public service in Montgomery’s honor on Thursday, June 6, at 3:05 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park. Gates will open at 2 p.m., and entrance and parking will be free. The Phillies will wear a patch with his initials – DPM – on their uniforms for the rest of the season.
He is survived by his wife, Lyn; three children, Harry, Sam and Susan; and three grandchildren.
Hundreds of people, from former mayors, commissioner of baseball, players, colleagues and executives from all around baseball, have written or spoken about Montgomery.
Among the words used to describe Montgomery after he died were “integrity,” “classy,” “dignified” “upbeat,” “courage,” decent,” “caring,” “respected,” “respectful” and the one I felt the most keenly, “friend.”