Happy Birthday, Allan Montreuil

In his first game as a major leaguer, Allan Montreuil slapped a single into left field against San Diego Padre pitcher Bill Grief on September 1, 1972.

It was his only major league hit.

Montreuil was a Louisiana native, born on August 23, 1943 in New Orleans.  At De La Salle High School, the 5′ 5″ Montreuil was a letter winner on the baseball team, but had played basketball on the junior varsity team.  In an article in The Sporting News, Montreuil joked, “but the game outgrew me.”  Enrolling in Loyola University, Montreuil then played on a National Baseball Congress championship squad from Ponchatoula, Louisiana – even returning to Wichita in 1962 where he was named the all-american shortstop of the tournament.  His Athletics team, however, finished third that year…

In 1963, Montreuil took a gig in the independent Basin League where Boston Red Sox scout Danny Doyle signed him in August, 1963.  First assigned to Waterloo, Iowa in the Midwest League, Montreuil showed surprising power and led the league in runs scored.  He was advanced to Pittsfield (AA) where he played in the same infield as future major leaguers Reggie Smith and George Scott (as well as Carmen Fanzone – my mom’s favorite player).  Anyway – Montreuil’s surprising power disappeared in the Eastern League and in took a few years to get out.  He didn’t get promoted to AAA Toronto until 1967 when the Leaf second baseman, Syd O’Brien, went down with a knee injury.  Leafs shortstop Al Lehrer suggested that the job go to Montreuil – and he got a short shot.  Unfortunately, he returned to AA in 1968 and eventually the Red Sox allowed Montreuil to move to a different organization in 1969.

He landed with the Cubs, who put him in AA San Antonio and eventually moved up to AAA Tacoma, where he played with future Cubs like Larry Gura and a few other names that only people watching WGN at that time would remember.  When the Cubs moved the AAA franchise a bit closer to home, Montreuil followed to Wichita.  Finally, after three seasons, the Cubs gave him a call.

Glenn Beckert went out with an injury when he was involved in a collision at second base, and his replacement, Paul Popovich, immediately went down with a thigh injury, forcing Ron Santo to play a few innings at second base.  So, the Cubs gave the 29-year-old veteran of nine minor league seasons his first and only taste of the big leagues – and as an odd coincidence, gave him the number 29, too.  Montreuil got the start at second base on 9/1 and would appear in four other contests, two as a starter as the season closed.  His last plate appearance was a walk off of Steve Carlton – but he was eliminated at second by a Billy North grounder to end the game and his major league career.

Montreuil played three more seasons in the minors, two in Wichita and one more in AA Midland, where – in his last month as a professional baseball player – he was named the Topps/TSN Player of the Month in the Western League for August, 1975.   He had first won that honor as a shortstop in Waterloo back in May, 1964 – and I would guess that no other player went longer between honors than Montreuil.  He finished that season hitting .324, which was his best season in the minors, but the Cubs never called him back.  Returning to Louisiana, Montreuil was a small business owner and realtor before health issues led to his retirement in 1999.

Montreuil died in Marrero, LA on January 18, 2008.

As a ballplayer, Allan Arthur Montreuil, Sr. was stuck – stuck behind Rico Petrocelli in Boston and then stuck behind Kessinger and Beckert in Chicago.  In writing that, I’m not suggesting he was better than those players, but limited in chances to advance.  Still, Montreuil was a decent ballplayer with just enough talent to make the big leagues.  When he finally got the call after nearly 1000 minor league games, he got a hit.

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