Photo by Adam Ryan Morris
He may not have the following of Bob Uecker nor the mustache of that guy named Bernie, but in his own way, 91-year-old Lou Montgomery has become a Milwaukee Brewers fixture. At every home game, you’ll find the longtime usher and tour guide stationed beside a press box door, swapping pleasantries and baseball stories with media members and fans alike. And he professes such love for his job that it sounds more like a second marriage. His first one – to wife Marian in 1946 – has delivered two kids, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, whereas his official Brewers union came in 1987, two years after he retired from a long career with General Electric. Montgomery has lived in Milwaukee since 1966, when a GE-related move took him away from his childhood hometown, the small, southwestern Indiana hamlet of Tell City. The move got him closer to his childhood baseball love, the Chicago Cubs. But he doesn’t root for them anymore. Two happy marriages are enough.
What’s the secret to reaching 91 years old?
You’ve got to be mighty lucky, and the Lord has to look down on you favorably, too.
What’s your earliest baseball memory?
I was probably 8 or 9 years old. In the summertime, we’d hang out at a tire shop. One of the owners asked me and my cousins if we wanted to go see a baseball game. So he rode us down to the baseball park in his Firestone tire truck, and we saw our first semipro baseball. That got me started as a baseball fan. Of course, every time we could get half a dozen kids together, we would play ball. We would play in a vacant lot in the neighborhood where we could get the most kids. Sometimes, we would play in the streets.
How did you become a Brewers usher?
Well, there’s a little story that goes with it. My wife and I were in a Burger King one day, and a person in the next booth got up. Apparently, some young people were disturbing some older ones, so he got the manager. The man came back and said, “I’m an usher in County Stadium, and we don’t put up with stuff like that.” I said, “You’re an usher. How do you get a job there?” He said, “They’re gonna be hiring some people in a short time. Just go there and put in your application.” So I did, and I was hired on the spot. It was a perfect place for a baseball nut like I am.
So it came down to being a baseball fan?
Absolutely. Honestly, I told my wife the first day that I worked over at County Stadium, “Honey, I’m gonna get paid for a job that I’d gladly volunteer to do.” I come from a small town. We had to go 250 miles on two-lane roads to St. Louis to see a game.
How did you meet your wife?
Another story. I came back from the Army. The clothes that I had when I left didn’t fit me. So I went to church, and I still had my Army uniform on. A neighbor said, “Louis, stay a little bit. I’ve got someone I want you to meet.” So she introduced me to my wife. I walked her home that day. Made a date with her for Tuesday night. Well, on Tuesday in the mail, I got a letter from her. She stood me up. She was on a women’s bowling team, and they had a game that night, and she had forgotten it. But I dated her the next night, and I never dated another girl after that.
What don’t people understand about an usher’s job?
You get all kinds of fans at the ballpark, you know. I’ve been very fortunate, but some people that come in when they’ve been partying too long before the game can create a disturbance and make the usher’s job a little more difficult.
What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Of course, seeing major league games. But also, it’s meeting people, making new friends, and it’s a real joy when somebody who knew me at County Stadium comes to see me here.
How would you compare Miller Park to County Stadium?
I thought County Stadium was a very good major league baseball park. In the later years, it was needing a lot of repair. To get Miller Park, in my opinion, is one of the best things that ever happened to Milwaukee. I know there was a lot of political hassle, and one of our state senators lost a job over it. But in my mind, he’s a hero because he made the deciding vote.
How would you characterize Milwaukee baseball fans?
Very loyal. We’re the smallest market in major league baseball. We’ve drawn 3 million or more fans. I’m not sure that could be said for a lot of other major league teams.
What players have been your favorite to watch?
Robin Yount. Paul Molitor. Those are the two. They put their heart into it. They were great players, and they were also team players.
You had some health issues in the offseason?
I had a little hitch of trouble. I had triple bypass surgery. But I had good doctors and nurses, and I took cardiac rehab. I did 33 of 36 sessions, but I could quit when I wanted to, and we wanted to go to spring training. So I missed the last three sessions for that.
That’s some commitment.
I told you I was a baseball nut.
What keeps you coming back to the ballpark?
I like the game. I’ve got the best job in the ballpark. Why shouldn’t I? As long as they want me, I’ll be here. I often say they’re gonna carry me out feet-first. But I’m not ready to die. I’m too young.