The last time I saw David Montgomery, he did what he valued the most – sitting in the Florida sunshine in a beautiful ballpark he helped build, watching his baseball team play talked about a sport he never stopped loving …  And a sport that never stopped loving him.
The chairman of the Phillies died Wednesday morning after a five-year battle with cancer, a battle that lost its power, but nothing of its never-ending grace. I met hundreds of people in baseball in my time who talked about this game, but nobody likes David. He lived a lifelong love affair with his sport, but also did something that seemed impossible ̵
He was loved by all but not liked by anyone. I have never met a person in any environment that was not happy to see him. He spent all his adult life working in the capital city of the world, but he behaved like a man who heard only jubilation.
So the sadness that hit baseball on Wednesday, after the death of his beloved and admired citizen, was almost indescribable. Baseball has never had a nobler, dignified, respected ambassador than this man.
"It's a sad day," said Bud Selig on Wednesday morning. "I only have heartache. Today – and I lost – we lost a great friend and a wonderful person who was loved by everyone he knew. So there is real sadness in our game.
David was never the most famous boss of baseball. But he was perhaps the most valuable. In his time as commissioner, Selig loved committees, and it was like appointing the president of the Phillies to each one of them. Blessedly said Wednesday with a laugh, "He was usually the first one there." Hey, good choice.
You can never make a mistake by putting a man in any room whose sole job is to find out a unique way to make everything around him better – and who never wanted to glory. So the schedule was a mess? Let us appoint David. The formula of revenue sharing was a disaster? Let us appoint David. We need to find a commissioner to follow Bud? Let us call David.
The result was that David Montgomery was a powerful behind-the-scenes worker, bold in the use of baseball in the world of wild cards and extended playoffs, for the successes of progress in large and small areas. Even so, he never seemed to be standing in front of a single camera or microphone to get credit for anything. None of it mattered. Not to him.
"I can honestly tell you today," said Selig, "that Dave Montgomery, in my 22 years as commissioner, has played just as important a role 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 did it instinctively. There were a few times in the press conference after we announced something where I mentioned it. And do you know what he said later? "You did not have to do that."
Right. Of course he did it. That was David Montgomery. The smartest man in the room. The smartest man in the room. The humblest man in the room. The nicest man in the room.
How could such a selfless man be such an effective and inspiring leader? It was a lesson that David never stopped teaching.
"You know, there are many different theories about leadership," said baseball's current commissioner, Rob Manfred, on Wednesday. "But Dave's view of leadership was that leadership comes from below. When people think you care about them, they tend to follow you. And that was Dave Montgomery …
"Dave was also a personal relationship partner," Manfred would say. "And not only with the people who worked with him and for him at Phillies, but throughout the industry. Even people who worked here in the headquarters. When he got through here, he knew everyone. He never missed a trick. "
Manfred told a story of a night 20 years ago, right after his family moved to New York, when the Manfred family and the Montgomery family went to the Radio City Christmas show together. [19659002"ZuderZeit"saysedercommissioner"warmeinejüngstesechsJahrealtIndieserNachtzeichnetesieDavebeimAbendesseneinBildIchweißdasseresjahrelanginseinerBrieftaschetrugEskönntenochinseinerBrieftascheseinAbererhattenureinesolcheBeziehungzuallendieeransprachJederrespektierteihnunderhieltmitdenLeutenSchrittDeshalbsehenSiedieseArtvonAusgießungheute"
Manfred gave on Wednesday a formal Kondolenzerklärung out containing a subject that I repeatedly heard the news of Montgomery's death as a spread and the texts and phone calls came rolling.  "David's approach to running the franchise and serving his fans," the commissioner said in this statement, "was to treat everyone as a family."
Family. Words like this often become casual in times like these spoken – but not in this case.
"Not only did David care a lot about the Phillies family who worked here," said the director for ö Public Affairs of Phillies, Scott Palmer Wednesday. "He knew the names of all family members and often asked about them. Our front office had lunch together in the media dining room. And David always looked for the newest person, usually an intern, and insisted that she call him David, and by the end of the lunch he would know almost everything about her.
"And now we will lean against each other when we mourn his death."
"I think that sums up David best," said Phillies Communications Director Greg Casterioto. "A few weeks ago, when he was in the hospital, I called him to see how he was doing. Of course he did not want to discuss himself. He had only two questions: 1) How did my family, by mentioning my wife and daughters by name, and 2) how did the new players in the clubhouse get used to each other? "
" I did not know David for a year and a half, "said Phillies manager Gabe Kapler on Wednesday. "But he had a pretty strong influence on me, as he did with everyone under this umbrella. In particular, he immediately made me feel like a family and felt at home. And I think he had the unique ability to do that for anyone he came in contact with. I think that's why the day is so deeply sad today – because everyone had the feeling that they knew David well, whether he had known him for two months, two years or 20 years. "
I have been treating David Montgomery at Philadelphia for many years. But from the day he first introduced himself, during my first spring training, he was never one of those who just "covered" you. He wanted to meet you and your wife and your wife family and everything about what was important in your world.
After my dad died, of course, he was at the funeral. When my mother died, he was also at this funeral. A few years ago, when I was honored at an event in downtown Philadelphia, I can still remember sitting on the stage and being pulled into this room by David Montgomery – one evening, his team played baseball a of course a few miles away.
But I do not know why that shocked me. That was David Montgomery.
Then in January, I attended the Philadelphia Sportswriters Dinner, where David received a standing ovation – just because he was recognized for sitting in the audience that night. That was David Montgomery too.
A week later, we met for lunch, making sure the conversation turned on everything but itself. When we got up to leave, he said he needed a moment to greet a few people. The next thing I knew had stopped at almost every table in the room when people got to greet him with a hug or a kiss, and he had their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers asked by name. All of them. Because that too was David Montgomery.
Then one day in February I left Scottsdale Stadium when my phone rang. It was David wondering when I arrived in Florida because he wanted to set a date – watching a baseball game with me. A few weeks later, I kept this date.
As always, people stopped constantly that day to say hello, shake hands, hug him, laugh together, and enjoy another baseball game together. When I asked about his amazing connection with so many people he was connected to about their mutual love of baseball, he said something I'll never forget. It sums up how he did his job and how he lived his life.
"We are lucky to work in sports," he said, looking me straight in the eye. "We live a dream. We should share this dream. "
That was more than anything David Montgomery. All he ever wanted from a baseball life was to bring everyone he met to share the dream. Now it's our turn to tell him these two words he never had to hear:
Meghan Montemurro contributed to this story.
(Photo by Montgomery: L Redkoles / Getty Images)