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Montgomery managed careers on and off softball field

April 04, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

On, and off the athletic field, Hagerstown's Dick Montgomery has had two careers in which he can be proud on an equal basis.

When it came to slo-pitch softball, his name was synonymous with any conversation that involved his Washington County teams.

Following the 2003 slo-pitch season, Montgomery retired from managing after 29 years on the diamond.

Off the field, he retired last September after a successful 39-year career as a machine operator at Mack Trucks Co. Now, he awaits this December when his wife, Judy, retires.

"We've done some traveling, but when (Judy) retires, that's it," Montgomery said. "After that, we'll be traveling all the time."

If it weren't for being asked to attend a slo-pitch game which subsequently resulted in a personal challenge, he may have never reached the heights he did.

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"At Mack, I had two fast-pitch teams but someone who was involved in slo-pitch asked me to come to a tournament," Montgomery said. "I couldn't make it on the Sunday they played, but they got rained out until the next day. I was able to go on that day.

"I thought my fast pitch teams could beat the slo-pitch teams and we did," he said. "But, I really liked the slo-pitch game because it was fast-moving."

From that point in 1974 he was on his way to becoming a championship manager.

"I really became committed to managing in 1978 and '79," he said.

He managed teams in the 70s and 80s under sponsorships beginning with Whispering Pines Tavern, then Moose 212, R & R Trim and finally Ram Construction until he retired.

Montgomery's finest championship memories came in the 1990s and filtered through to 2003.

"We had the best two years of softball from mid-1996 to the end of 1997," he said. "We won 75 straight games and stole some headlines."

In Sioux City, Iowa, playing in a national Class A tournament, Montgomery's Ram Construction team scored 59 runs in four innings on opening night and then run-ruled the favored team in the second round.

Following appearances in nationals in 2000 and 2001, the R & R team traveled to Valdosta, Ga. to win the Amateur Softball Assn. East National in 2003. Subsequently, the team won a trip to the Nationals in Oklahoma City, where it defeated an Iowa team for the ASA Class B title.

"We had 14, or 15 top 10 finishes nationally and in 29 years we won 21 various state titles," Montgomery said.

Through the years, he managed "quite a few characters ... probably the best players you could ever want to get."

They included his first recruit, Eddie Talbert, in 1974 along with Terry Kline, two of his best hitters through the 1980s.

Dick Dorsey, Mick Byers and Dizzy Dean are on his "list" through the 1990s and he called Joey Himes "one of his best and a real character."

Then he picked up Curty Myers and Ricky Grove, followed by Bill Bakner and Rocky Wills, the current girls basketball coach at Hancock.

Of Wills, Montgomery said, "He was one of the nicest kids and there was nothing he couldn't do."

His last group of star players included Jeff Reynolds of Charleston, W.Va., who was the W.Va. Class AAA baseball player of the year; Jerry Hartle, Mick Byers Jr. and Alan Harsh, whom he said was "one of my best pitchers ever."

This summer he will most likely spend time watching some of those players as they make a return to the Hub City League under the Northwest Mutual banner.

"Mick Byers is getting some of the old guys together, so It will be nice to go back and watch them," Montgomery said.

"Softball in the A and B divisions is still very popular," Montgomery said. "The lower divisions have fallen off and that's because there are so many other things to do that the talent has drifted off."

A 1961 graduate of North Hagerstown High School, Montgomery spent four years in the Navy before he began his careers at Mack Truck and on the softball field running over the opposition.

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