By Fred Wallace
I was talking last week about " Blue Monday " which climaxed on October 19, 1981 when LA Dodgers outfielder Rick Monday broke the hearts of the Expos, the city of Montreal and essentially Canada, with his tie-breaking homer in the 9th inning off Steve Rogers in Game 5 of the NLCS.
Among the most compelling sequences in the book by Danny Gallagher, for me, was the focus on the man who hit the clutch home run for the Dodgers at Olympic Stadium; Rick Monday.
Monday was the was the first player picked in the first ever Major League Baseball Draft in 1965.
Back then it wasn't a huge deal..... Could you imagine if he was picked first overall in this day & age ?!
I started watching baseball in the late 60's and my favorite team was the Oakland Athletics with Rick Monday in centerfield.
Monday played with the emerging A's as they rose to win their first AL West title in 1971, but then was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Ken Holtzman, and Oakland followed with a string of 3 straight World Series Championships while the Cubs remained the Cubs, going nowhere, throughout the 70's.
But aside from being a # 1 draft pick, and aside from his " Blue Monday " homer at Montreal, Rick Monday is best remembered for an incident with the Chicago Cubs in 1976.
1976 was America's bicentennial year, a year loaded with fanfare and promotion designed to illustrate how great the United States was at the age of 200.
Not everyone agreed with the sentiment.
On April 25, 1976, prior to the bottom of the 4th inning, two protesters, a father & son, ran into the outfield at Dodger Stadium and attempted to set fire to an American flag.
Monday, the Cubs centerfielder that day & a man who had served a 6 year commitment with the United States Marine Corps Reserve, ran over, grabbed the flag, and then took off, escorting the American flag to safety in the LA dugout.
Regarding the incident, Monday was quoted later as saying, "If you're going to burn the flag, don't do it around me. I've seen too many veterans' hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it."
Apparently, Rick Monday still has that American flag. He relates that on warm days, you can still smell the gas and kerosene the protesters tried to light it with that day in 1976.
In this world where memorabilia sometimes is king, Rick Monday has been offered up to $1 million to sell that flag,.......but he has declined all offers, and I get the feeling he always will.
The picture of Rick Monday of the Chicago Cubs dashing away from the two protestors, American flag safely in his clutches during that singular moment in April of 1976, made " Blue Monday " all the more enjoyable to read.