01/02/2005 8:00 AM ET
Montgomery honored by candidacy
Former closer does not consider himself Hall-worthy
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Jeff Montgomery recorded 45 saves in '93, tying Dan Quisenberry's Royals record. (S. Dunn/Allsport)
KANSAS CITY -- Jeff Montgomery pulled off a lot of saves in difficult situations for the Royals. He doubts, however, he can pull off election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
In fact, he's sure of it.
"I do not expect to have any significant opportunity for the Hall of Fame," he said.
In all candor, Montgomery wondered why he's even being considered.
"In my opinion, a Hall of Fame baseball player should be one who is a household name, a player who has immediate identity and is recognizable by a large percentage of fans," he said.
Even though Montgomery had 304 saves for the Royals, he labored in relatively obscurity in small-market Kansas City. His teams never reached the postseason. And anyway, relief specialists have rarely excited the voters -- only Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Hoyt Wilhelm have been elected largely on their bullpen exploits.
Not even Goose Gossage or Bruce Sutter or Lee Smith have made the Hall. Montomery, though, suspects Mariano Rivera, because of his long history of World Series and other postseason exploits for the Yankees, will make it.
"I would assume he'd be a first-ballot Hall of Famer," Montgomery said. "If he'd walk down the street in Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, there are going to be a lot of people who know who he is. Where you take me [on the Plaza] or Rick Aguilera in Minneapolis and there are more people who would recognize Rivera than recognize us."
Montgomery was a different kind of closer. He had no blazing fastball or devastating forkball; he just threw four pitches, all of them pretty well. Especially the slider.
| Montgomery's Resume
304 saves, 3.27 career ERA
Royals Hall of Fame, A.L. Fireman of Year '93
Best HOF vote Pct.:
1st year on the ballot
Peers in Hall:
Dennis Eckersley, George Brett, Eddie Murray
More stats and bio >
"We always called it the 'Manhole Slider,'" former teammate Mike Boddicker said. "He threw it up there and it disappeared down a manhole."
Or, as ex-catcher Mike Macfarlane said, "It hit a deflector screen out in front."
Montgomery pitched in a Kansas City uniform for 12 years.
"I was pretty fortunate. I was never that great, but I was good for a long time," he said.
One of the Royals' biggest bargains, he was obtained from the Cincinnati Reds before the 1988 season for outfield prospect Van Snider, who faded into history.
"When I reported to my first Royals camp, there was a lot of excitement and expectation in a new environment coming over the from the Reds organization," he said.
Montgomery was converted into a starter by the Reds, but the first thing Royals general manager John Schuerholz told him was he was going back to relief -- at Triple-A Omaha. The excitement dimmed a bit.
"But I opened a lot of eyes, threw the ball pretty well and made it a tough decision for them to send me down," he said.
In 1988, the Royals had veterans Dan Quisenberry and Gene Garber as closers but both were released on July 4. Montgomery, called up earlier, got a save in his first Royals appearance and not another all season. Steve Farr was the closer.
"In '89, about midseason he had knee surgery and I became the closer the second half. So I'm thinking I'm going to be the closer in 1990 and that's when we acquired Mark Davis. So I was back to the setup role," Montgomery recalled.
Davis, signed for big bucks before the 1990 season, flopped and Montgomery had his opening.
"I had to go back in and re-establish my position," he said. "That was a couple years of tough times, but it all worked out."
Sometimes Montgomery took the long route to a save. He might issue a walk or two or give up a hit and the bases might be littered with bodies before he closed the deal.
"I had a knack of rising to the occasion but sometimes the occasions were self-created," he said.
Macfarlane remembered all too well.
"George [Brett] started calling him 'May Day' after the Cheers character," Macfarlane said. "Instead of May Day Malone, it was May Day Montgomery. It was uncanny. Monty earned his saves, let's put it that way."
Even though he had a career-high 45 saves in 1993, Montgomery considers 1989 his best season. He had just 18 saves but had a 7-3 record and posted a 1.73 ERA in 63 games.
"The best thing about having your best year early in your career is it establishes the confidence that you need and it establishes confidence in you from your teammates and from the organization," he said.
Montgomery had a bulldog mentality and a long memory.
"He was never intimidated," Macfarlane said. "He was not afraid of backing up his players at any time. There could have been a hit batter in the first inning that Monty remembered into the ninth in a one-run game and he'd pay back. He didn't care."
Today, Montgomery is still in Kansas City, involved in radio stations and real estate development. He and wife Tina have four children: Ashleigh, Connor,
Spencer and Kathryn.
He was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 2003.
"I'm very, very proud of that. That's where I belong," he said. "The National Baseball Hall of Fame is in a different category."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.