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Bob Montgomery

September 30, 2009

Bob Montgomery 79

I have more to say about Bob Montgomery than can be said in one sitting, one rushed sitting, I might add, the clock continuing the relentless march toward the time when I have to sprint out the door and begin my commute, that many-vehicled odyssey marked by delays, boredom, and the back-wrenching crush of coughing bodies in a groaning public conveyance. Luckily I have several Bob Montgomery cards, so I don’t need to say it all right now, and instead I’ll simply rejoice as long as I can before I go, rejoice first in Bob Montgomery in his many cardboard incarnations, because it just may be Bob Montgomery who best defines the central quiet joy that was card collecting as I experienced it as a young Red Sox fan growing up in rural Vermont. Once in a while I’d discover a Red Sox star in a new pack, Fred Lynn or Jim Rice or Carl Yastrzemski or the man who made Bob Montgomery a shadow in the realm of major league baseball, Carlton Fisk, and in those moments I’d get dizzy with happiness, so high that I was up and out of the world altogether. But when I got a Bob Montgomery card, and I got one every year from 1974 to 1980 except for 1975, I was happy in a quieter way, Bob Montgomery the farthest thing from a star. I was happy to get any Red Sox player, but Bob Montgomery, in his steadiness, coming back every year to me, became special in a familiar way, like an uncle who would always remember to bring a glove when he came to visit so that he could play catch with you.

And that’s exactly what Bob Montgomery did throughout the duration of his major league career that spanned the decade that I hold above all others, from 1970 to 1979: he played catch. Occasionally, he got a chance to bat, and he did so decently and also with a notable style, the last major leaguer ever to come to the plate without a batting helmet, but the great majority of the time he sat in the bullpen until it was time to start playing catch with relievers. I rejoice this morning that this world, for all its flaws, at least can boast that there’s a professional career to be made out of playing catch, and, in a related note, I rejoice in the aptness of this 1979 card, which may be the most accurately descriptive card ever created for a major league player. Here is Bob Montgomery, veteran backup backstop, gray hair peeking out from his cap, a coat on to protect him from a chill, and he’s not in the midst of playing catch but is instead ready to play catch. Perhaps he has already been knocked down in the depth chart, below primary bullpen catcher, by Muggsy Allenson, who started to eat into Monte’s already scant playing time in 1979. Still, Bob Montgomery waits, ready to perform the duties of a guy who will catch the ball if you throw it to him and will then return it you.

It took Bob Montgomery eight years in the Red Sox minor league system before he joined the big club, and then throughout his career with the team he experienced the peak of major league baseball, the playoffs, just once, and barely, getting a single at-bat in the last inning of the last game of the World Series (he made the team’s second-to-last out, just preceding Yaz, in the Red Sox’ loss to the Reds), and so this rushed morning the last thing I want to rejoice in is the current Red Sox squad clinching a spot in the playoffs very last night. Younger Red Sox fans may have begun to take such things for granted, and may be less inclined to rejoice, especially considering the team got in last night despite losing five games in a row, but I’m from the days of Bob Montgomery, and I believe that when you get a gift from the heavens, such as a playoff spot, such as a Bob Montgomery baseball card, you rejoice.

9 comments

  1. Bob Montgomery the announcer was not so great – “that was a nice piece of hitting” was his standard cliche.

    I met Monty at a United Way golf tournament in Augusta, Maine back a few years ago. He was the celebrity stationed at the 16th hole that hit a 7 iron with every group so you could see if you could hit it closer to the pin than an ex-Red Sock. Our whole group did. He also gave chipping lessons on the practice green as well. Monty was a little taken with himself and his golf game, but overall he seemed like a nice man.


  2. Josh, you hit this entry right on the head. I, too, used to feel elation at seeing the “Red Sox” on a card, then would wait for the Phase Two level and see if it was one of the stars or one of the bench guys. I remember in 1981 (when I was 12), I’d rip through a pact, only caring and searching for stars. It’s depressing to think about that now.

    Pie’s right, Monty was not a great announcer. Certainly seems to be a nice guy, though, at least from what I could see.


  3. I have been reading this site for a week or two after someone pointed it out to me from a game message board. It is incredible. Thank you Josh! I am also rejoicing about the Red Sox in the playoffs one more time. It is still quite an accomplishment and anything can happen. I don’t know if you saw last night’s game, wow, we could’ve gone into the playoffs on a great comeback maybe even on a game-winning home run. Pedroia’s only needed a few more feet. A few years ago, I got back into baseball cards after having left it around 1984 or so. I don’t know if I saw them as cardboard gods but I did revisit their power and the fun of collecting them. My own baseball related obsession can be found here: http://dmbforum.yuku.com/topic/6444 . I have gained quite a bit of background on many of the players here.


  4. My favorite item on Bob Montgomery’s BBRef page is the transactions he was involved in during his career. Behold the complete list:

    Transactions

    June 9, 1962: Signed by the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent.

    November 1, 1979: Granted Free Agency.


  5. Excellent! Glad someone seems to have the proper reverence for the moment. Thanks for the post.


  6. caminante0:
    Thanks for checking out the site!

    sansho1:
    I noticed Monte’s slim transactions section, too. It may be the defining aspect of his bb-ref page. Most backups catchers drift from town to town, but Monte was (still is) forever a member of the Red Sox.

    pieman1121, sb1902:
    I defer to you guys’ expert opinion on Bob as an announcer; I moved out of range of Channel 38 before my ability to criticize announcers developed; to me, the idea of Monte as an announcer is just sort of comforting. Reminds me of my grandparents’ house on Cape Cod…


  7. I always loved Monte because he always seemed to be enjoying himself when he played, he always seemed to get a couple hits when he played, and most of all, for not wearing a batting helmet at the plate. I realize he had a plastic liner inside his cap, but it still gave the appearance of major balls to go up to bat in a major league game with no helmet. I think because of the no helmet he was much better known than the average backup catcher. My favorite memory of him was an NBC Game of The Week in the mid ’70s when I believe he had three hits against Catfish Hunter. I just remember Joe Garagiola couldn’t stop talking about Montgomery the whole game. These memories also bring to mind how great it was to watch This Week In Baseball with Mel Allen pre ESPN. That show was the only access most of us had to see highlights from around MLB other than your local teams. I can still remember waiting impatiently for TWIB to start and than it was always a lead in to a Mets or Yankee game. Man, those are some good memories.


  8. Shealives, I lived for TWIB! ESPN Classic showed a bunch of them from 1978 a while back, I was mesmerized.


  9. I knew Monty as an announcer, and always loved the guy, but I have to say in response to people saying he’s a nice guy that he seems kinda surly these days. I met him at Fenway’s Autograph Alley a few years ago. I had my little comment ready, knowing how much he likes catching talk: “Hey, Bob Montgomery, the last catcher to wear #10 before Gedman.” He cared less about this possibly than anyone’s cared about anything in history. Stone-faced, no chit chat, no “you’re welcome” or anything. Then I saw him at the premiere of the 2007 World Series film at the Wang with his much younger wife, and he had a look on is face that said “don’t talk to me.” Recently, a co-worker of mine brought up a time when she saw him when she was a kid, over thirty years ago, and he wouldn’t sign an autograph for her, thought he would for these 40-year old women that were fawning over him. So, whatever, he could have been having three bad days, or he could just be a surly dude, which is his right. Doesn’t take anything away from my 80s memories that he voiced.



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