Rick Monday Saves Old Glory
The day was April 25, 1976. The Cubs were playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Patrolling center field for the Cubs was 30-year-old Rick Monday, who was embarking upon what would be the best season of his career, with 32 home runs and 77 runs batted in. On this spring day in '76, he was on a Cubs team that was headed for a fourth place finish in the National League East. It was the fourth inning with the Dodgers batting.
The Vietnam War had ended a year before, but people didn't need a war in order to protest. What these two ding-a-lings who had just dashed onto the field of Dodger Stadium were all about nobody knew, but here they were, and where was security? They had come from the left-field corner and had just run past Cubs left fielder Jose Cardenal. One carried something under his arm but Monday couldn't distinguish what it was. Once they reached shallow left-center, they stopped and brought out the object. Monday could see; it was the U.S. flag.
He recalled that they laid it on the ground almost as if they were about to have a picnic. Then one of them dug into his pocket and brought out something shiny and metallic. "I figured having gone to college two and two is sometimes four," Monday said. "They were dousing it with lighter fluid." Then they lit a match. Which flared momentarily and died. By now, Monday was in full stride, running towards them. "To this day, I don't know what I was thinking,"he said. "Except bowl them over." He was also thinking they were trying to commit a terrible act.
"What they were doing was extremely wrong as far as I was concerned," said Monday, who served six years in the Marine Reserves. He reached them about the time they got the second match lit and were about to torch the flag. "There's a picture that I think won the Pulitzer Prize and it showed me reaching down and grabbing the flag," he said. Monday got the flag and handed it to Doug Rau, a Dodger's pitcher. That was the last Monday saw of it until a month later. The Dodgers came to Wrigley Field and Al Campanis, a Dodgers executive, presented the flag to Monday. "It's displayed very proudly in my home," he said.
Monday got a hero's welcome wherever the Cubs played the rest of that season. It was the last thing he wanted. He had simply done what he thought was the right and honorable thing to do. He had visited a veterans hospital when he played for Oakland and had seen how people's lives had been shattered fighting for what that flag represents. "It's the way I was brought up," he said. "You would have done the same thing had you been as close geographically as I was, I get the idiots stopped."
rick monday saves old glory
Published: April 26, 2006, 10:19 pm