For those of you old enough to remember, April 25, 1976 was the day that Rick Monday of the Chicago Cubs saved an American Flag from being burned on the outfield at Dodger Stadium.
For those not old enough, perhaps you were fortunate to recall one of Monday’s historical recollections during one of his broadcasts on AM 570 radio.
Monday’s big league accolades were many. He played 19 seasons in the majors, was named to two All-Star squads, appeared in the World Series two times and was a member of the Dodgers’ 1981 World Series championship team. What’s more, he was the first player selected in the MLB draft in June of 1965.
However, when asked, Monday says without hesitation that saving the flag in Los Angeles was one of the most important moments of his entire career.
“What happened in my playing career will take care of itself,” said Monday, during the 40th anniversary of the event back in 2016. “The flag represents the rights and freedoms we all enjoy in this country.”
On that day, two protesters ran into left-center field and tried to set fire to the flag after the start of the bottom of the fourth inning. Monday, the Cubs center fielder, had been tossing a practice ball with left fielder Jose Cardenal just before the incident happened.
The legendary Vin Scully was handling the broadcast duties.
Monday subsequently ran through the infield with the flag. While walking towards the Dodgers dugout, he met and handed the flag over to Dodgers pitcher Doug Rau.
Consequently, the ballpark police officers arrested and escorted the two intruders, William Thomas and his 11-year-old son, off the field. Afterwards, Thomas was fined, charged with trespassing and put on probation. When Monday came to bat in the top half of the fifth inning, he got a standing ovation from the crowd. The big message board behind the left-field bleachers in the stadium flashed the message, “Rick Monday… You Made A Great Play…”
Monday later told reporters, “If you’re going to burn the flag, don’t do it around me. I’ve been to too many veterans’ hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it.”
While playing in the majors, Monday had served a six-year commitment with the United States Marine Corps Reserve as part of his ROTC obligation after leaving Arizona State.
On August 25, 2008, Monday was given an American flag flown over Valley Forge National Historical Park in honor of his 1976 bicentennial flag rescue.
For his valor, Monday was presented with a Peace On Earth Medallion and a lapel pin by Patricia Kennedy—founder of the non-profit organization Step Up 4 Vets—during a game at Dodger Stadium on September 2, 2008.
During the winter after the incident, Monday and pitcher Mike Garman were traded by the Cubs to the Dodgers in exchange for left fielder Bill Buckner, shortstop Ivan de Jesus and minor league pitcher Jeff Albert.
Monday ended up playing eight years in Los Angeles before retiring in 1984.