This Saturday marks a moment in American history thirty-three years ago when one person on the national stage had had enough of the anti-patriotism that was seemingly so prevalent in that day. A friend sent me the news story as an e-mail attachment the other day and suggested I might want to write about it. He was right. Here it is.
On April 25, 1976, the Chicago Cubs were in Los Angeles playing the Los Angeles Dodgers when two fools, a father and son, ran into short center field where they threw down an American flag they had been carrying. One of these bozos sprayed the flag with lighter fluid while the other clown attempted to light a match. As they knelt by the doused flag, the wind picked up and blew out the first match. Not to be deterred, Einstein made a second attempt. That’s when the fun began.
The center fielder for the Chicago Cubs at the time was Rick Monday. Previous to playing for the Cubs, Monday had played for the Kansas City Athletics (soon after they became the Oakland Athletics). At the end of the 1976 season, Monday was traded to the Dodgers where he finished out his nineteen year career as a major league player.
But on this particular day, Rick Monday would have none of this. Seeing what was taking place, he sprinted to where these geniuses were still trying to burn the American flag. His first thoughts were to bowl into these two miscreants and send them flying. Instead, he swooped in and snagged the flag off the ground on a dead run. Einstein was still fumbling with a match, oblivious to the fact that the flag was no longer on the ground in front of him.
As Monday sprinted clear of these guys, the fans jumped to their feet and cheered. Security rounded up the father and son and carted them off to jail. In the video clip of this incident, you can see the Dodgers third base coach, Tommy Lasorda, sprinting out to center field with the intent of rescuing the flag as well. Seeing that Rick Monday had beaten him to it, Lasorda continued out there to verbally berate these two protesters using a string of words that would be most inappropriate for this article. However, most longshoremen would understand what Tommy said.
When Monday came up to bat in the next half-inning, before a pitch was ever thrown, a tribute was flashed on the left field message board that said, “Rick Monday . . . You made a nice play!” What Rick Monday did that day has sometimes been referred to as the greatest play in baseball history. Monday was later interviewed and asked about the incident. He said, "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.”
Allow me to humbly inform you that Rick Monday was a Marine. Clowns #1 and #2 picked the wrong day, the wrong place, and in front of the wrong guy to pull their little stunt. Oorah, Rick!
At that moment in time Rick Monday stood up for what he believed in. He knew it was the right thing to do even though our nation was still languishing in the mire of a failed policy in Southeast Asia. Our last combat troops had left Vietnam little more than three years before, and our military presence had been evacuated from Saigon not quite a year prior to this incident.
Recently, the baseball Hall of Fame named the quick thinking act of Monday one of the top 100 events in baseball history.
Last September 2, 2008, at Dodger Stadium, the ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by Patricia Kennedy, President and Founder of Step Up 4 Vets. Prior to taking the mound, Kennedy bestowed upon Dodger’s announcer, Rick Monday, a “Peace One Earth Medallion” inscribed, “RICK MONDAY, An Unforgettable Act of Valor, An Inspired Act of Patriotism, April 25, 1976.”
Ever a patriot, Rick was offered a cool million bucks recently for the flag which had been presented to him by the Chicago Cubs organization in 1976. He turned down the offer!
All I can say is, “Semper Fi, Marine!” You’re my kind of patriot!