Rick Monday was a two time All Star, hit over 20 homers three times, and won the 1981 World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, nothing he accomplished gained as much recognition as when the Chicago Cubs outfielder saved the American flag.
Back in the mid 1970’s, the country was in a great deal of turmoil. The Vietnam War, a hugely unpopular foray, was coming to an end. The Richard Nixon presidency had ended in an embarrassment not seen previously. While we had integration, racial tensions were still high. Protests were constant, occurring virtually everywhere imaginable.
On this day in 1976, those protests found their way to the outfield of Dodger Stadium. During the fourth inning of the Chicago Cubs game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, two protesters rushed the field, carrying an American flag with them. Setting up in the outfield, they prepared to set the flag on fire as part of their protest on the direction of the nation.
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That is where Monday sprang into action. Running from his spot in center, he grabbed the flag and ran towards the left field foul line, keeping the flag from being set ablaze. In that moment, he became a figure for the conservatives of the nation to rally behind, a symbol that, no matter how bad things were currently, patriotism was still alive and well.
It is perhaps fitting that the 1976 campaign was also Monday’s best. He had a .272/.346/.507 batting line with a career best 32 homers and 77 RBI. Although he was not an All Star that year, it was the only season that Monday earned MVP votes in his 19 year career.
Unfortunately, just as Monday had earned notoriety and had become a household name, his back began to give out. While he played until 1984, he would never have another year with 400 or more plate appearances. Although he was still a solid piece on the Dodgers teams of the time, he was typically relegated to a bench role.
Nonetheless, he still had his moments for Los Angeles. In that World Series winning season, Monday hit the game winning homer in Game Five of the NLCS against the Montreal Expos, taking Steve Rogers deep in what came to be known as Blue Monday. It was his only RBI of the series, but it proved to be the most important one.
Rick Monday was a solid player with a bit of power and a solid ability to get on base. However, nothing he accomplished will ever match this day in 1976, when the Chicago Cubs outfielder saved Old Glory.