ALBUQUERQUE – Most Major League baseball players never forget their first hit, home run, pitching victory or pitching save.
In the case of 34-year-old southpaw Mike Montgomery, neither he nor any Chicago Cubs fans of a certain age will forget his first save.
That’s because his two-pitch save came in the 10th inning of the seventh game of the 2016 World Series, a world championship Cubs fans had been waiting for since 1908.
And although Montgomery had eight MLB victories in his career, which began in 2015, that memorable save was his first. He came on to relieve Carl Edwards with one runner on base and two outs in the 10th inning, getting Michael Martinez to look at a called strike, then hit a soft ground ball for the final out.
“The way that game played out — Game 7 of the World Series, extra innings — it was surreal,” he said during a recent phone interview. “I appreciate it even more as time goes by. At the time I was so locked down, so focused. It ended up in what I would say one of the, if not the best, World Series of all time.”
Baseball fans will have an opportunity to meet Montgomery, who lives in Scottsdale, when he makes a guest appearance to sign autographs Saturday, Nov. 11, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Marriott Uptown (west side of Louisiana Blvd., just north of its intersection with I-40).
He’ll be the highlight of the New Mexico Card Show, running Nov. 10-12 at the Marriott. Friday’s show hours are 1-7 p.m.; Saturday’s hours are 10-6 and Sunday’s are 10-4. There will also be non-sport cards and games: GPK, Pokemon, Marvel, Star Wars, WWF and more.
Montgomery grew up in southern California, watching Atlanta Braves games on TBS and savoring the work of Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, etc.
Back then, “I was really more into basketball at a younger age. I really enjoyed it; it helped develop my athleticism. My mom and dad played college basketball.”
At 6 feet, 5 inches tall, it’s not hard to imagine him playing high school hoops. And although he’s not Randy Johnson tall, lefties that tall are imposing figures on the mound.
Although that epic conclusion to the 2016 season is a career highlight, Montgomery hasn’t had many in the majors since. In fact, his last MLB pitch was tossed in 2020; he’s spent time in Korea and the minors since then, including a stint that began this past June with the L.A. Dodgers’ AAA affiliate, the Oklahoma City Dodgers.
Need a coincidence? His last appearance with those Dodgers was on Sept. 21, when he started the game for them at Isotopes Park.
“There (have been) a lot of highlights,” Montgomery said. “Last year was my 16th professional season. … It’s been a grind of ups and downs in the minor leagues; I threw back-to-back shutouts as rookie (2015); winning the World Series. My four years (2016-19) with the Cubs was an unbelievable experience, great times; my son was born there.”
Montgomery was a first-round pick in June 2008 by Kansas City; one week later, and having just graduated high school, he signed. The Royals then began a revolving door of transactions: In order, he was traded to Tampa Bay, who traded him to Seattle. The Mariners dealt him to the Cubs, who swapped him three years later back to Kansas City. Granted free agency by K.C. after the 2020 season, he’s been with the Yankees, Mets (twice) and Dodgers, but not in the majors.
“Last year after spring training, I didn’t have a job and went to Mexico (to play). The Dodgers called in June,” he said.
He’s a bit different than current big-league pitchers in that he made 14 starts and had 30 relief appearances for the Cubs in 2017; 19 starts and as many trips out of the bullpen in 2018; and 13 starts and 20 relief appearances in 2019.
His major league debut was with the Mariners on June 2, 2015, in Seattle. There, facing the New York Yankees, he gave up only one run on four hits in six innings; The Yankees won the game, 5-3, in 11 innings. He was the second pitcher in Mariners history to pitch at least six innings while giving up one run or fewer in his debut.
“I was more nervous than for any other game I’ve played in in all my life,” he recalled. “Fernando Rodney gave up a home run, and I didn’t get the win. The roof was closed and it was so loud — definitely a memorable debut.”
At 34, baseball considers him old, but he’s hopeful his winter workouts and most teams’ need for a big lefty will get him back to “the Show.”
But, as he pointed out, “I eat innings; I don’t give up a lot of homers.”
That’s always a plus.
He’s also another footnote in MLB history: On April 2, 2017, Montgomery became the first pitcher in major league history to issue a no-pitch intentional walk, as he walked Yadier Molina in the 10th inning on a simple sign from the dugout by Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
For more information on the show, contact promoter Ryan Maxwell at [email protected]. As of today (Oct. 26), he’s still open for vendors.
* Admission to the show is $5. Fees for Montgomery’s signature are: $40 for autographs; $25 for any 2016 World Series inscriptions (Final Pitch, World Series Champs, etc.; 6 words max.); $10 for any other inscriptions up to 5 words; $10 additional for JSA COA; $35 for Rawlings 2016 World Series baseball.)