Before I talk about Monty, I must say, the 1973 Topps cards could be my favorite of all time. They were simple and yet had the iconic silhouette of the player in the lower right hand corner which was just so cool.
I never had many of these because I WAS ONE YEAR OLD WHEN THEY CAME OUT. I supposed this creased and battered card probably existed in my grandmothers house in Connecticut where one of my older cousins probably had it.
Bob Montgomery is a Red Sox institution. He has been involved with the club for so long that it is hard to remember a time where he wasn’t doing something for the team.
He was born and raised in Tennessee and was signed by the Red Sox out of high school as an outfielder. He switched to catching in the minor leagues as a way to get promoted faster. He made it to the majors in 1970 and never went back to the minors. From 1971 to 1979, he was a major league from the start of the year to finish. And only twice did he play more than 40 games in a season.
Monty was the classic backup. His job was to fill in for Carlton Fisk and give him a breather from time to time. His batting average sometimes looked insanely high on paper. He hit .320 in 1973, in 128 at bats. He was a .300 hitter in 1977, in 17 games. In his final big league season he was a .349 hitter, in 86 at bats.
Sometimes, especially when Fisk went into a slump, some fans wanted Montgomery to be the starter, since he was such a prolific hitter. Here’s the problem. He didn’t want that. He knew that if he was a starter, that batting average would PLUMMET.
He had a great gig and was a fan favorite. He even posed for Jordan Marsh ads. For those of you who do not know, Jordan Marsh was a chain of stores in the Boston area that included clothing and fashion. And who better to model clothes than a stylish backup catcher for the Red Sox?
The style extended to his times at bat. In 1971, players were required to wear a helmet when they came to bat. Those who played before 1971 could be exempted and be grandfathered in. Monty played 22 games before 1971, so guess what? He chose to NOT wear a helmet.
He would come to the plate with a soft hat on which he put a liner in the inside to protect him. I am guessing a helmet would have been smart for him to wear.
When I was a kid starting to read stats in the 1979 yearbook, I saw several players on the team had played in the 1975 World Series. Monty was one of them. He had one at bat.
Now when you see a reserve catcher, one who was following World Series hero Carlton Fisk, got only one at bat, usually that means they got a mercy at bat in a blow out game. I figured he was in a situation where it was a game the team looked like they were going to lose and the manager said “Put Monty in there. It’s his only chance to play in the World Series.”
That’s what I assumed.
Holy Cow was I wrong.
What was the low leverage situation that Bob Montgomery made his lone appearance in the 1975 post season in? IN THE BOTTOM OF THE NINTH OF GAME 7 OF THE WORLD SERIES!!!!
The Reds were leading by one run in the bottom of the ninth with Will McEneaney on the mound. As I wrote yesterday, Juan Beniquez came up as a pinch hitter for Rick Miller and flew out to the right fielder Ken Griffey.
Denny Doyle was up next. Manager Darrell Johnson decided to roll the dice. Monty was a right handed hitter and as I mentioned before, got his share of hits in a small sample size. Where he was a situation where a single would have changed the complexion of the inning.
If Montgomery got a single, chances are he would have been lifted for pinch runner Doug Griffin (Monty was pinch hitting for second baseman Doyle.)
Yaz was up next. Fisk followed with Fred Lynn after him. If they batted with a runner on, a home run would win the World Series for the Red Sox.
One thing Monty’s at bat does bring up through the eyes of a fan in 2017 is the flawed line up construction they had in the 1970’s. Why are two batters who can be pinch hit for higher up in the lineup than a pair of Hall of Famers and the man who was the MVP in 1975?
The point was moot. Monty grounded out, making it 2 outs and nobody on. Will McEneaney got Yastrzemski to pop up and end the World Series. Ahhh if only Monty got that hit.
He played for the Sox through 1979 and was one of the announcers of the team through the 1980’s and into the 1990’s. He still makes guest appearances on the broadcast and will also announce for the Pawtucket and Portland minor league teams for the Sox. He evidently also runs a board game company.
So Monty made one post season appearance while wearing a soft hat. It was with one of the greatest World Series in history on the line. He didn’t get the World Series ring. He DID win 11 Emmy Awards as an announcer which, I must say, it quite impressive.
Almost as impressive as his batting average in those short seasons.
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