If you've ever happened across Ken Burns' wonderful documentary on the history of baseball while flipping through the channels on a cold, baseball-less winter night, you've probably been introduced to Buck O'Neil.
He's the man with the soft and captivating voice whose eyes light up when he tells stories about Jackie Robinson, Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige. Every time O'Neil flashes across the screen, you are struck by his sincerity, his warmth and his passion for the game of baseball.
In 2008, the Baseball Hall of Fame recognized O'Neil's amazing ambassadorship to the game with a statue in Cooperstown and the establishment of the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is presented by the Hall of Fame's board of directors no more than once every three years to a person who embodies O'Neil's inspiring spirit and dedication to baseball and the baseball community.
On Thursday, the Hall of Fame announced that the late David Montgomery would be honored with the award on Saturday, July 25 during induction weekend.
The award is one of the highest honors given by the Hall of Fame and Montgomery, who died after a five-year battle with cancer in May 2019, is a most worthy recipient.
The beloved former Phillies executive will join an impressive group of previous honorees.
O'Neil, the former Negro League great, was honored with the inaugural award in 2008, two years after his death.
Longtime Major League executive Roland Hemond was honored in 2011.
Former player and broadcaster Joe Garagiola was honored in 2014.
Rachel Robinson, a partner in her husband Jackie's courageous journey across baseball's color line in 1947 and beyond, was honored in 2017.
When the award was established, the Hall of Fame described O'Neil as "one of the greatest ambassadors baseball has ever known, a giant of a man whose wisdom, kindness and generosity of spirit will live on forever in all of those whom he touched."
These words are also befitting of Montgomery, who grew up in Roxborough practicing Richie Ashburn's hook slide on the kitchen floor and later went to work for his hometown team. Montgomery started in ticket sales in the early 1970s and rose to the ranks of club president and part owner in 1997. He oversaw the building of Citizens Bank Park and presided over the organization when it won the World Series in 2008.
“He and Buck certainly had much in common, first and foremost their love of the game and their commitment to maintaining its integrity,” Montgomery’s wife, Lyn, said in a statement released by the Phillies. “David’s passion for the Negro Leagues makes this honor even more fitting.
“I would like to thank the Board of Directors for acknowledging David’s impact on the game during a career that spanned almost 50 years. To have his life celebrated in Cooperstown, as recognition for his devotion and dedication, is an honor that would have undoubtedly moved him to tears.”
As a baseball executive, Montgomery's influence stretched industrywide and he assisted several commissioners on projects and initiatives ranging from scheduling to labor relations. He was respected in all corners of the game. Several times throughout his career, he was mentioned as a potential candidate for Commissioner.
Being Commissioner, however, never interested Montgomery. He was a Philly guy in love with all things Philly — particularly the team in red pinstripes — and leaving the club and the town he loved was never an option for him. Montgomery's love of Philadelphia showed in his and the organization's commitment to charitable causes throughout the city and region. He not only hailed from the City of Brotherly Love, he lived the ideal.
Montgomery has previously been recognized for his commitment to the game and his community with a number of awards and honors. In January 2017, he was honored by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation with the Allan H. (Bud) Selig Executive Leadership Award. In 2018, his name was added to the Rich Ashburn Special Achievement Award. The Rich Ashburn and David Montgomery Special Achievement Award goes annually to the Phillies employee who demonstrates the same loyalty, passion and dedication to the club as the award's namesakes.
In March 2018, the team named its state-of-the-art indoor training facility in Clearwater after Montgomery.
Another honor came Montgomery's way just before his passing last spring when Commissioner Rob Manfred visited Philadelphia to announce that the 2026 All-Star Game would be played at Citizens Bank Park. Hosting the All-Star Game as part of the nation's 250th birthday celebration was something Montgomery pushed for and dearly wanted.
And now comes another honor in Cooperstown this summer. Montgomery will posthumously receive the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award at the Hall of Fame's awards presentation on July 25, the day before former players Derek Jeter, Larry Walker and Ted Simmons and union executive Marvin Miller are inducted into the Hall.