This month, our focus is on our “C” word, COMPETITOR, which includes: Desire & ability to compete; High expectations; Tough minded – ability to overcome; Brings the best out of teammates. On one hand, this might be the easiest categories to fill. After all, one doesn’t reach the major-league level without being a great competitor. However, perhaps no position exemplifies COMPETITOR as well as a great closer. In this case, it’s the Royals’ all-time saves leader and current television broadcaster, Jeff Montgomery. The following is a previously published piece by our Director, Matt Fulks, on “Monty.” Incidentally, Montgomery’s book with Fulks, “If These Walls Could Talk: Kansas City Royals,” is available now. And, look for details in the upcoming weeks about a special luncheon with Dayton Moore and Jeff Montgomery.
Jeff Montgomery has a short memory.
Or at least he did as a player (considering he was a computer science major at Marshall, he probably has at least a decent memory).
“The biggest asset for a closer is a short memory,” said Montgomery, whom the Cincinnati Reds picked in the ninth round of the 1983 draft. “If things are going well, you don’t need anything to boost you that day. If things are bad, you sure don’t need anything to bring you down. You have to go out day after day and pitch to your strengths.”
For 12 years, Monty pitched to his strengths for the Royals, and as a result he was able to consistently get the three hardest outs in a game — 25, 26, and 27 — more effectively and more often than anyone else in Royals history.
There is just something about getting those last three batters out as opposed to three outs in any other inning. But with a short memory and four top-shelf pitches, Montgomery became the Royals all-time career saves leader.
“The way you pitch in the fifth, sixth or seventh inning is going to be different than the way you pitch in the eighth and ninth inning,” said Montgomery, who saved 304 games for the Royals. “Please don’t let anyone ever tell you that pitching the ninth inning is easier than pitching the sixth or seventh inning. I’ve tried both and it’s not.
“It’s amazing and I’ve never been able to figure out why it is, but those last three outs are the toughest.”
The Royals acquired Montgomery from the Reds in exchange for Van Snider in February 1988. After making 14 appearances for Cincinnati (none in a save situation), Monty didn’t appear in another team’s uniform, a span with the Royals of 12 years and 686 appearances.
With that type of career, when asked about memorable outings, two significant ones stand out to Montgomery: his last save of 1993, which tied him with Dan Quisenberry as the club’s single-season saves leader with 45. And career save No. 300 about six years later.
Montgomery had come close to saving 40 games before ’93, with 33 in 1991, and then 39 in ’92. In 1993, though, the last time the Royals won at least 84 games before this recent stretch, and the year before the strike-shortened season of ’94, Montgomery tied for the American League lead with 45 saves to go with a 2.27 ERA, and he won the Rolaids Relief Man award. At one point during the year, Monty converted 24 consecutive save chances.
Six years later and one night after blowing a save against Baltimore, Montgomery got revenge — and his 300th career save — on August 25, 1999. After giving up two hits and a run in the two-run game, Montgomery induced a ground ball out from Albert Belle for his 300th save.
Montgomery, 37 years old at the time and battling a hip issue, was the 10th player to reach 300 saves, and the first to get all of his saves with one club.