PHILADELPHIA — David Montgomery probably would have loved Friday night.
The Phillies played their most anticipated game since COVID-19 struck before the 2020 season. They hosted the New York Mets with first place in the National League East on the line.
Before the game, the Phillies honored the late Montgomery, who spent nearly 50 years with the organization and was the face of ownership since the late 1990s. Montgomery died of cancer at 72 in May 2019.
Friday’s game-time temperature was a humid 86 degrees. New York fans chanted “Let’s go, Mets!” only to be shouted down by Phillies fans. The Citizens Bank Park crowd reacted to every pitch. Everyone in the stadium seemed to be having a good time.
It was the type of atmosphere Montgomery dedicated his professional life to building.
“There would have been a twinkle in his eye tonight,” said his widow, Lyn. “This would be his kind of dream night, and it will really be his type of night if we win.”
Montgomery rooted for the Phillies while growing up in in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. He got a job in the club’s sales department in 1971.
From there, he rose to become the Phillies’ president and chief executive officer. He led the Phillies from 2007-2011, when they won five straight division titles and the 2008 World Series. Montgomery also led the campaign to build Citizens Bank Park, which opened in 2004.
Just last month, Montgomery received the Buck O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hall of Fame. The award, named after the Negro League standout who died in 2006, is given to someone who enhances baseball’s image and broadens the game’s appeal.
But most of all, Montgomery was known for his passion for baseball — he kept score of each game he attended — and treating people with kindness and generosity.
As part of the pregame ceremony, Phillies Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton unveiled a portrait of Montgomery that will be displayed in the stadium’s Hall of Fame Club.
Montgomery’s grandsons, Cameron and Will McFall, then threw out the ceremonial first pitch to former Phillies stars Jimmy Rollins and Bob Boone.
The celebration of Montgomery’s life was part of the Phillies Alumni Weekend. Philadelphia will induct retired second baseman Many Trillo into the team’s Wall of Fame before Saturday’s 4:05 p.m. game and retire pitcher Roy Halladay’s number before Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. series finale.
Alumni Weekend is happening as the Phillies play arguably their most important series in nearly 10 years. The Phillies are trying to make the postseason for the first time since 2011.
The Phillies began the night 56-53, a half-game back of the first-place New York Mets (56-52) in the National League East. The Atlanta Braves (55-54) started Friday 1.5 games back.
“We put ourselves in a position where we’re a half a game behind,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said before Friday’s game. “The Braves are right there, too. I notice there’s a little more media today, so obviously it is a little bit bigger with you. So that’s a good thing. This is fun.”
Philadelphia first baseman Rhys Hoskins was not in Friday’s starting lineup.
Girardi said Hoskins was dealing with the groin injury that kept him out of the starting lineup from July 30-Aug. 2.
Hoskins began Friday with a slash line of .302/.439/.660 since the All-Star break.
Girardi said the hope is that Hoskins can return to the lineup Saturday.
“He’s sore,” the manager said. “We knew that going through this, we kind of go day to day. We’ve got to keep him fit enough to keep him off the (injured list). But it’s not to the point where he was when he hurt it the first time.”