An individual award for a championship family.
For nearly a decade, a local family dominated the softball scene locally and nationwide. Now, Coon Rapids’ Bob Montague has entered the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame for his role as a player and manager of that dynasty squad, honored at the biennial banquet in Albert Lea.
Sports have been a lifelong passion for Montague, with softball a natural destination.
“I played from pee wee’s until ninth grade, then I committed to wrestling,” Montague said. “I started men’s softball right after graduation. Sports were always competitive for me.
“I was coaching a Class A women’s team who had great success in high school. Most played on teams that won the volleyball and fastpitch state championship, and took fourth in state in basketball their senior year.”
Once he was married, Montague and his wife took part in family competitions. Success was all relative, to say the least.
“Nine of us were related,” Montague said. “We started playing 16-inch co-ed. You had to have three related couples. We had five in my family; my wife and two of her sisters played. My two sisters’ husbands also played. My parents bought a motor home and drove us all over the country.”
It didn’t take long for the team to begin to dominate. The pinnacle came in the early 1980s.
“Nothing could top what we did in ‘83,” Montague said. “We heard a team from Rochester played in a national co-ed tournament. The only problem was it was a 12-inch ball. We all played 12-inch, our men’s and women’s teams, so we decided to give it a shot.”
The team made its way to Oklahoma for a national competition that featured a field of 105 teams. Montague and family came away with the title, then returned home to add a 16-inch state championship. It went on to add a USSA co-ed title as well.
“We named it: ‘Three-for-Three in ‘83,’” Montague said. “We were 80-0. We played in San Antonio in ‘84 and we won the championship again. Our season record was 47-0. In the future I’d love to figure out what the record was for all those years.”
In all, Montague’s softball accomplishment list was lengthy: eight ASA team state titles, seven 16-inch state crowns, four ASA team national championships with a pair of national MVP awards, as well as six All-American honors. Add to that a 1995 Class A Masters 35 and over state championship and a 40 and over national runner-up finish.
To name a few.
“Going into the ASA Hall of Fame as a coach/player is an unbelievable honor,” Montague said. “I can’t thank every teammate enough. We played the game the way it’s supposed to be played, and that’s why we had so much success.
“We were playing bingo, talking softball, and I asked my 92-year-old mom, ‘Who do you think should go into the Hall of Fame?’ She said, ‘The team!’ I couldn’t have said it better.”