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Remembering longtime Phillies president David Montgomery | Extra Innings

“David had the ability to make every employee feel like they’re important or feel like they’re a part of the team,” Pat Gillick says.

Phillies president David Montgomery looking out over the field from the unfinished press box at Citizens Bank Park in January 2004.
Phillies president David Montgomery looking out over the field from the unfinished press box at Citizens Bank Park in January 2004.Read moreDAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer (custom credit)

The news broke a few minutes after 8 a.m. Wednesday. David Montgomery, chairman of the Phillies and the team’s longtime former president, had passed away after a five-year fight with jaw-bone cancer. Tears flowed, and not only in Philadelphia. Montgomery loved his hometown, of course, but he made a broader impact. Everyone from commissioner Rob Manfred to Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona sent along their condolences and expressed their grief. The Phillies’ loss is baseball’s loss, too.

For about three hours Wednesday, Jerad Eickhoff provided a respite for the Phillies. He shut down the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in what amounted to the best start of his career to date. Surely, it would have made Montgomery proud.

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David Montgomery: ‘One of the most wonderful human beings’

Pat Gillick didn’t have to take a job with the Phillies.

It was the autumn of 2005, and Gillick was a free-agent executive. A decade earlier, he had built back-to-back World Series-championship teams with the Toronto Blue Jays. He assembled the Seattle Mariners team that won 116 games in 2001. He had an offer to become general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, an attractive possibility for a Southern California native. Or he could go back to scouting, his true passion.

But Gillick came to Philadelphia to meet with David Montgomery. And after four hours, he had made a decision.

“I told my wife, ‘We’re going to Philly,’ ” Gillick recalled recently.

There was just something about Montgomery, Gillick said. Although they had met a few times before, they barely knew each other. But Montgomery had an easy way about him. He made people feel comfortable. And he genuinely cared about everyone he met, whether they were Hall of Fame general managers or coffee-fetching interns.

“David had the ability to make every employee feel like they’re important or feel like they’re a part of the team,” Gillick said. “He had a tremendous personality and a tremendous warmth to him. Everybody, when they’re talking to him, he knows your children’s first name, he knows your wife’s name. That’s not only in the baseball end, but in the entire operation.”

Gillick took the job, of course, and in his third season, he helped deliver the Phillies’ second World Series title. It was a crowning moment for the organization, and it ranked among Montgomery’s greatest professional successes, up there with getting Citizens Bank Park built in 2004.

As Gillick reflected on his friend, he paused for a moment.

“He’s one of the most wonderful human beings that I’ve ever come in contact with,” he said.

Everyone seemed to share Gillick’s opinion. In a press conference Wednesday, an emotional Larry Bowa called Montgomery “the best human being I’ve ever been around — ever,” and set a goal for the current Phillies team.

“What we can do now is,” Bowa said, “and the team is in a good position, we can win a World Series for Dave this year. I think that would be the greatest thing in the world for him.”

The rundown

Montgomery’s greatest legacy will be the strong sense of family that he engendered within the Phillies organization. To get a sense of that, Bob Brookover spoke to several employees who told stories of what it was like to work for Montgomery.

“In the truest and clearest measure of his courage, you could have, at any time over the last five years of his life, looked at his face and listened to his voice." —columnist Mike Sielski on Montgomery’s courage and grace.

Montgomery’s impact wasn’t lost on current Phillies players and staff, even though most of them didn’t know him well. “He was probably the heartbeat of this organization,” Rhys Hoskins said, perfectly.

The Phillies weren’t Montgomery’s only sporting love. He had tremendous passion for Penn basketball, as Ed Rendell tells Mike Jensen.

Katie McInerney compiled thoughts and reflections on Montgomery that came in during the day.

For Jerad Eickhoff, one unintended consequence of missing almost all of last season because of injuries is that he reinvented his slider. It was his best pitch Wednesday.

Don’t look now, but Cesar Hernandez is red hot at the plate.

Important dates

Today: Day off for the Phillies in Kansas City.

Tomorrow: Jake Arrieta starts the series opener vs. Royals, 8:15 p.m.

Saturday: Zach Eflin (two runs allowed in last 16 innings) looks to keep rolling, 7:15 p.m.

Sunday: Vince Velasquez wraps up the road trip, 2:15 p.m.

Monday: Phillies return home for four-game showdown vs. Brewers, 7:05 p.m.

Stat of the day

Rhys Hoskins made his major-league debut on Aug. 10, 2017. Since then, he leads all major-league players in both total pitches seen (4,643) and pitches per plate appearance (4.51).

Hoskins’ production nearly matches his patience. He has 63 career home runs, third most since his debut, behind only J.D. Martinez (71) and Khris Davis (70). He also ranks third in RBIs (176), also behind Martinez (200) and Davis (179). Hoskins ranks just outside the top 10 in slugging percentage (.541) and in the top 25 in on-base percentage (.373).

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.

Question: Good to see the old Aaron Nola. And if [Vince] Velasquez doesn’t pitch well against the Royals, I think a trip to triple A may be in order. Nobody is going to pick him up. And Nick Pivetta looks revived. Whatcha think??

— Bill M., via e-mail

Answer: Thanks, Bill, for the comment and the question. There’s no doubt that the Phillies have a shorter leash with underachieving players now than they had during their rebuilding years. We saw it with Pivetta, who got optioned after four starts. And it was notable that Kapler wouldn’t commit to Velasquez beyond Sunday’s start in Kansas City.

I don’t sense, though, that Velasquez is pitching for his job against the Royals. Maybe I’m wrong (it happens occasionally), but as long as he doesn’t go rogue and stray from the game plan again, as he did the other night in St. Louis, I think they will allow him more leeway to work through his struggles.

That said, there are replacements at the ready in Lehigh Valley. It isn’t only Pivetta, who won’t be rushed back before the Phillies are satisfied that he’s ready. Left-hander Cole Irvin has a 2.25 ERA in six triple-A starts. Irvin doesn’t miss a ton of bats, but he does get outs. Eventually, that will be rewarded.