By Jayson Stark of The Athletic:
“It’s a sad day,” Bud Selig was saying over the phone Wednesday morning. “I’m just heartsick. Today, we lost — and I lost — a great friend and a wonderful human being who was loved by everyone he knew. So there is real sadness in our game.”
David was never baseball’s most famous executive. But he might have been its most valuable. In his time as commissioner, Selig loved committees, and it felt as though he appointed the president of the Phillies to every one of them. In fact, Selig said Wednesday, with a laugh, “he was usually the first one on there.” Hey, good choice.
You can never go wrong when you bring a man into every room whose only mission is to find that unique way to make everything around him better — and who never wanted any of the glory. So the schedule was a mess? Let’s appoint David. The revenue-sharing formula was a disaster? Let’s appoint David. We need to find a commissioner to succeed Bud? Let’s appoint David.
The result was that David Montgomery was a powerful behind-the-scenes force for labor peace, for baseball’s bold venture into the world of wild cards and expanded playoffs, for its embrace of progress in areas large and small. Yet he never seemed to step in front of a single camera or microphone to reel in the accolades for any of it. None of that mattered. Not to him.
“I can honestly say to you today,” Selig said, “that Dave Montgomery played as important a role, during my 22 years as commissioner, as any human being. He was a guy I never had to talk to about what was in the best interests of the game. He just instinctively did it. There were a couple of times, in the press conference after we announced something, where I’d mention him. And you know what he’d say later? ‘You didn’t have to do that.’”
Right. Of course he did. That was David Montgomery. The smartest man in the room. The classiest man in the room. The humblest man in the room. The nicest man in the room.
How could a man so selfless have been such an effective and inspiring leader? That was a lesson David never stopped teaching.