To the Editor:
Now that our national pastime is in full “swing” and we are finally starting to flatten the “curve” on Covid, it is about time to enjoy a patriotic feel-good story.
Rick Monday, of the Chicago Cubs, Aug. 25, 1976 (our bicentennial birth year), trotted out to his usual position in centerfield against the Los Angeles Dodgers, at Dodger Stadium.
While warming up in the fourth inning, he heard some unusual crowd noise and spotted two male spectators running into left centerfield. They suddenly stopped, then knelt and pulled out an American flag. They began dousing the flag with lighter fluid.
Monday quickly realized they were going to set the flag on fire and ran over and snatched the flag from them, and then continued over to the Dodger dugout, where he handed the flag over to the starting pitcher, Doug Rau.
When Monday came to bat in the fifth inning, he received a standing ovation from the 25,000-plus fans and the scoreboard lit up with “Rick Monday – You Made a Great Play.”
The “two fans,” an unemployed father and his 11-year-old son, were taken into custody for trespassing. The father was fined $60, which he couldn’t pay, so he spent three days in jail. Don’t you wonder what happened to the boy?
The flag that was rescued that day was presented to Monday nine days later by the Dodgers when they came to Wrigley Field on Rick Monday Day.
Many people offered to pay as much as a million dollars for the flag, but, until this day, Rick has kept the flag in his den with other baseball memorabilia. He and his wife have taken the flag on many trips to raise money for military charities.
Monday served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and always maintained, “I did not want to see them desecrate the flag that some of my buddies lost their lives for and which represents the rights and freedoms that you and I enjoy.”
Rick Monday enjoyed 19 seasons with the major leagues, coincidentally, his best year was 1976 when he hit 32 home runs and earned MVP (most valuable player) votes.
When he retired, in 1984, a reporter cynically asked him, “Doesn’t it disappoint you, knowing you spent 19 years in the big leagues, and the only thing which you will be remembered for is saving an American flag from being burned?”
Rick’s answer was, “You know what? That is not a bad reason for which to be remembered.” An all-American reply by a two-time all-star - hoorah.