L.A.’s greatest sports moments, No. 19: Rick Monday saves the flag
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We asked you to send in your picks for the greatest sports moments in L.A. history, and 1,181 ballots later we are unveiling the top 20 vote-getters. Each weekday (with one day off for Thanksgiving), we will unveil a new moment until we reach No. 1.
No. 19: Rick Monday saves the flag (2,232 points)
The year was 1976. The bicentennial of the country. And, in one of the more patriotic moments of that year, Rick Monday saved the American flag.
On April 25, Monday was playing center field for the Chicago Cubs against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. At one point during the game, two men ran onto the field and ... well, Monday recounted the moment in his own words to mlb.com:
‘In between the top and bottom of the fourth inning, I was just getting loose in the outfield, throwing the ball back and forth. Jose Cardenal was in left field and I was in center. I don’t know if I heard the crowd first or saw the guys first, but two people ran on the field. After a number of years of playing, when someone comes on the field, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Is it because they had too much to drink? Is it because they’re trying to win a bet? Is it because they don’t like you or do they have a message that they’re trying to present?
‘When these two guys ran on the field, something wasn’t right. And it wasn’t right from the standpoint that one of them had something cradled under his arm. It turned out to be an American flag. They came from the left-field corner, went past Cardenal to shallow left-center field.
‘That’s when I saw the flag. They unfurled it as if it was a picnic blanket. They knelt beside it, not to pay homage but to harm it as one of the guys was pulling out of his pocket somewhere a big can of lighter fluid. He began to douse it.
‘What they were doing was wrong then, in 1976. In my mind, it’s wrong now .... It’s the way I was raised. My thoughts were reinforced with my six years in the Marine Corp Reserves. It was also reinforced by a lot of friends who lost their lives protecting the rights and freedoms that flag represented.
‘So I started to run after them. To this day, I couldn’t tell you what was running through my mind except I was mad, I was angry and it was wrong for a lot of reasons.
‘Then the wind blew the first match out. There was hardly ever any wind at Dodger Stadium. The second match was lit, just as I got there. I did think that if I could bowl them over, they can’t do what they’re trying to do.
‘I saw them go and put the match down to the flag. It’s soaked in lighter fluid at this time. Well, they can’t light it if they don’t have it. So I just scooped it up.
‘My first thought was, ‘Is this on fire?’ Well, fortunately, it was not. I continue to run. One of the men threw the can of lighter fluid at me. We found out he was not a prospect. He did not have a good arm. Thank goodness.
‘After the guys left, there was a buzz in the stands, people being aghast with what had taken place. Without being prompted, and I don’t know where it started, but people began to sing ‘God Bless America.’ When I reflect back upon it now, I still get goose bumps.’
Later that year, Monday was presented with the flag by the Dodgers and Monday still has it hanging in his home.
-- Houston Mitchell