It was 40 years ago today that Rick Monday performed the greatest play of his 19 year MLB career. He didn’t hit a home run in extra innings or make an amazing catch to preserve a perfect game. It wasn’t anything like that. What Monday did, for those uninformed, was to save the American flag.
Monday, playing center field for the Cubs in the bottom of the 4th inning when he noticed two protestors jump on the field and kneel down and begin trying to light an American flag. This did not sit well with Monday, a veteran of the Marine Corps reserves.
Now, the words of Vin Scully.
“And wait a minute, there is an animal loose. Alright…I am not sure what he’s doing out there. It looks like he’s going to burn a flag! And Rick Monday runs and takes it away from him! I think the guy was going to set fire to the American flag! Can you imagine that?”
Monday grabbed the flag and turned and ran it over to the Dodgers dugout for safekeeping as stadium security apprehended the protestors; a father and his 11-year old son. The father was later fined, charged with trespassing and placed on probation.
When Monday came up for his next at bat, the scoreboard flashed the words, “RICK MONDAY… YOU MADE A GREAT PLAY…” and the Dodger fans gave him a well deserved standing ovation. Monday was later presented with the flag on May 4, 1976 on “Rick Monday Day” at Wrigley Field once the Cubs returned home. He has since been given the Peace 1 Earth medallion by the organization Stand Up 4 Vets and was later gifted with a flag flown above Valley Forge, in recognition of his patriotism and valor shown in the Dodger Stadium outfield.
I was able to attend Rick Monday bobblehead night at Dodger Stadium in 2013 (full write up here) and am pleased to note that when the videoboard showed the footage of Monday’s historic grab, it was once again accompanied by a standing ovation.
In a time when politics and policies are becoming more and more divisive, it’s nice to look back at an event like this–by no means earth-shattering or revolutionary–and remember that there are some things that can just unite groups of people, regardless of socio-political-economic division. The act that Monday stopped that afternoon was wrong and almost everyone in that ballpark knew it at the time and seemingly still know it today.
Thank you, Mr. Monday!
“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.”