One of the most respected and admired executives in baseball, David P. Montgomery passed away this morning at the age of 72 after a courageous five-year battle against cancer.
In his nearly half century in the game, one of Montgomery’s greatest legacies was his unwavering civic-minded approach to the business of baseball. He was also widely admired for his fierce loyalty to fans, players and front-office staff. That loyalty was on par with his passion for the game.
“I am deeply saddened on the passing of my dear friend David Montgomery," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "David was a first-class representative of his hometown team, the Philadelphia Phillies, for nearly half a century. He never forgot his days as a fan at Connie Mack Stadium, and he carried those lessons to Veterans Stadium and Citizens Bank Park. David’s approach to running the franchise and serving its fans was to treat everyone like family. He set an outstanding example in Philadelphia and throughout our game."
"Today’s a really hard day, and a painfully sad one -- beginning with the Phillies family, but extending to Philadelphia," Phillies managing partner John Middleton said. "But also, entwined with this sorrow should be rejoicing. This is a man who lived a great life. He was an example to all of us. We should all be grateful that David was in our lives, and for all the ways he touched us personally and thousands of other people.
"He’s accomplished something that no one else has in the history of Philadelphia -- he was successful, and he was loved by everyone."
Montgomery’s Phillies career began in 1971, working in the ticket office during the day and helping operate the scoreboard at night. It didn’t take long for him to begin proving himself, as he was soon named marketing director and then director of sales. He was promoted to executive vice president after the 1981 season when Bill Giles put together a group that purchased the team from the Carpenter family.
He became chief operating officer in 1992 and remained in that position until being promoted to general partner, president and chief executive officer in 1997. “I was just blessed with opportunities,” he told the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1999. “It never felt like a job to me. I was just pursuing my passion in sports.”
In his role as president and CEO, Montgomery became the face of the Phillies front office and a behind-the-scenes force in Major League Baseball. He spearheaded the club’s transition from Veterans Stadium to Citizens Bank Park in 2004, including the construction of the state-of-the art ballpark. He also led the organization during the most successful period of sustained excellence in franchise history, from 2007 through 2011, which yielded five straight National League East titles, two pennants and the 2008 World Series championship.
“David was one of my mentors in baseball and was universally regarded as an industry expert and leader," Manfred said. "In recent years, I marveled at his courage as he battled cancer and through it all his amazing ability to think of others.
“I will remember David Montgomery as a gentleman and a man of great integrity. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest sympathy to David’s wife Lyn, their children and grandchildren and the entire Phillies organization.”
In August 2014, Montgomery took a leave of absence as president and CEO following his diagnosis in May of that year. He returned as chairman in January 2015. Montgomery remained active in this role until his passing, attending many of the team’s 2019 Spring Training games in Clearwater, Fla., as well as this year’s home opener at Citizens Bank Park.
Montgomery was so influential at MLB’s New York headquarters that he was once considered a legitimate candidate to become Commissioner.
“David was truly a great man. I have never known a person with more integrity or who truly cared so much about everyone who worked for the Phillies,” said the team’s chairman emeritus, Bill Giles. “He and I worked hand-in-hand for over 30 years. During that time, I saw his unparalleled love for his family, the Phillies and the team’s fans, and of course, the City of Philadelphia. David was a big reason why the Phillies won 12 division championships, five National League championships and two World Series championships in that time. He was a fierce competitor in everything he did, including his battle to fight his illness. He will be tremendously missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
In addition to holding positions on various MLB committees, Montgomery served in a number of capacities at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he was a trustee, a member of the Board of Overseers of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. He also served on the policy board of WXPN, the university’s member-supported radio station. He also gave much his time and effort in volunteer positions at PHL Sports, a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau; the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; Need in Deed, a non-profit working with children in Philadelphia public schools; the Children’s Scholarship Fund; and the Walnut Street Theatre.
Montgomery received numerous honors in recent years. In 2018, the new indoor training facility at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater was named in his honor. He received the Allan H. (Bud) Selig Executive Leadership Award from the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, the Ed Snider Lifetime Distinguished Humanitarian Award from the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association, and has been recognized by the Mural Arts Program, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia and the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. Daisy Field, the same field in Wissahickon Park where he grew up playing baseball as a kid, was renamed for him in a dedication ceremony on Nov. 3, 2018. Just last week, he was honored by the Fairmount Park Conservancy as the recipient of the Centennial Award for Civic Leadership.
In addition to his wife, Lyn; Montgomery is survived by three children, Harry, Sam and Susa; one granddaughter, Elizabeth and two grandsons, Cameron and Will. Funeral arrangements are pending.
“Plain and simply, David was one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met in my life," Phillies executive vice president David Buck said. "He was a wonderful man, and he did so much for all of us. I remember when Harry Kalas passed away, David said, 'We lost our voice.' Well, with David’s passing, we lost a very big piece of our heart.”