Dark clouds gathered around Citizens Bank Park on Thursday afternoon and raindrops began to fall. Umbrellas starting popping up as folks walked into the ballpark.
And then the clock hit 3 p.m. and all of a sudden those pesky raindrops disappeared and the sun came out. It shined for the next 75 minutes as the Phillies remembered their beloved former team president David Montgomery in a beautiful and touching celebration of life.
As the poignant event came to a close, emcee Tom McCarthy astutely noticed the change in weather.
“I think we had a window,” he said, looking skyward with a smile.
The comment drew soft laughter from the folks who had gathered for this special event. Those who knew Montgomery well know how much he hated rainouts. Whenever rain threatened a Phillies game, Montgomery would contact all of his go-to weather advisers and, more often than not, the Phillies would wait out the storm because, you know, there was "a window" that would allow the game to be played.
A gathering of about 2,000 people was on hand to pay tribute to Montgomery, who died May 8 after a five-year battle with cancer. He was 72.
The group of attendees included many former Phillies players from several different eras, including the current one. Montgomery started with the Phillies in 1971 and ascended to the role of club president in 1997. His legacy includes the 2008 World Series title, Citizens Bank Park and the Phillies’ incredible devotion to charitable endeavors in the city of Philadelphia.
Former Governor Ed Rendell, a friend of Montgomery’s dating to their days as students at Penn, spoke of how his pal grew up a huge Phillies fan and landed a job with the club after one meeting with club executive Bill Giles.
Even as he climbed the team’s executive ladder, Montgomery never lost his identification with the fans.
“His most lasting gift to the fans of Philadelphia is this stadium,” Rendell said. “He was determined to make it the most fan-friendly stadium in the major leagues.”
Larry Bowa and Jimmy Rollins both spoke about Montgomery’s passion for the Phillies, for baseball and for community service in his beloved hometown. (We wrote about that here last month.)
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred spoke of his 30-year friendship with Montgomery.
“He was an honest adviser with his finger on the pulse of the industry,” Manfred said. “For 30 years, I relied on Dave as an unwavering source of guidance. He delivered advice with a special kindness, even if the message was tough.”
The celebration of life included several outstanding videos on Phanavision. One of the most touching included a couple of dozen longtime Phillies employees delivering short, heartfelt messages to Montgomery. He always ran the Phillies like a family and the love that employees had for the boss was apparent in the messages — and the tears.
One of the final messages came from Kathy Killian, the team’s vice president of administration. She said that she often asks herself, “What would David do?” and went on to explain how that became her approach to her job.
David Montgomery touched a lot of lives and the Phillies did him right with a wonderful sendoff.
But he wouldn’t have wanted it to be sad. So at the end, the Phanatic appeared and everyone sang “Take Me out to the Ballgame.”
Under sunny skies.
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