On This Date in Sports April 25, 1976: Flag Saver
In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
When two protesters come onto the field at Dodger Stadium to burn the American Flag during a game between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers, Rick Monday comes to rescue, snatching the flag before they can light their fire. The incident happened with Ted Sizemore at the plate with Steve Stone on the mound. The man would later serve three days in jail for trespassing.
It was 1976, the year of America’s Bicentennial Celebration. However, William Errol Thomas was not in the mood for celebrating. Angered at the treatment of Native Americans by the U.S. Government, Thomas from Eldon, Missouri, came on to the field with his 11-year old son at Dodger Stadium, looking to burn an American flag in protest. The two placed the flag on the ground in centerfield, but the first match they used failed to ignite the flag. While they attempted to strike a second match, Rick Monday, the Cubs centerfielder, came in and grabbed the flag handing it to Doug Rau in the Dodgers’ bullpen. Thomas and his son were arrested and charged with trespassing. The protestor would serve three days in jail and were ordered to pay a $60 fine.
Rick Monday, a native of Santa Monica, received a standing ovation the next time he came to the plate. He would get three hits and five at-bats, scoring two runs as the Dodgers beat the Cubs 5-4 in ten innings. Upon returning to Chicago, Rick Monday was hailed as a hero and given the honor of serving as Grand Marshall in a special Bicentennial Salute to America parade in Chicago by Mayor Richard Daly on June 12th. Following the season, Monday would be traded to the Dodgers for Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus.
Rick Monday was a solid veteran major leaguer who played 19 seasons in the majors. In 1965, when Major League Baseball held its first-ever draft, he was the first player chosen by the Kansas City Athletics in 1965 out of Arizona State. Making his debut at the end of the 1966 season, Monday was an All-Star for the first time in 1968. Following the 1971 season, the Oakland Athletics would trade Monday to the Chicago Cubs for Ken Holtzman, who became a key player as the Athletics won three straight World Series. After five years in Chicago, Rick Monday was traded to the Dodgers, where he played in three World Series in five seasons, winning in 1981. The Dodgers would have never made it to the World Series in 1981 without Monday, as his ninth-inning home run by off Steve Rodgers of the Montreal Expos in Game 5 proved to be the difference.
Rick Monday finished his career with the Dodgers in 1984. He was a two-time All-Star with a .264 average, 179 home runs, and 516 RBI. After retiring, Monday went into broadcasting and has called games for the Dodgers since 1993. Rick Monday still owns the flag he rescued, reportedly turning down an offer to sell the flag for $1million.