It didn't happen on Memorial Day weekend, and it was a long time ago, but the day Rick Monday saved an American flag from being burnt in the outfield at Dodger Stadium still resonates with baseball fans 35 years later.
It is remembered as one of the most patriotic moments in Major League Baseball history, but it wasn't a planned celebration or moment.
It just happened.
On April 25, 1976, Rick Monday was playing center field for the Chicago Cubs in a game at Dodger Stadium when two protesters, William Thomas and his 11-year-old son, ran onto the field and attempted to set fire to an American flag.
They laid the American flag on the field and doused it with lighter fluid.
However, before they were able to get a match lit, Monday ran over and took the flag away and carried it off the field. Thomas and his son were arrested and taken from the stadium.
In a story by Tim Dahlberg of the Associated Press, Monday, who spent six years as a Marine Corps reservist before beginning his baseball career said, “I thought, they can’t light it if they don’t have it. I reached down and took it away from them. It happened so quick they were putting the match on what they thought was the flag on the ground.”
A story on azcentral.com quotes Monday as saying, "It angered me what they were trying to do with the American flag. This was in 1976, it's the bicentennial year of our country."
After Monday saved the flag and the crowd at Dodger Stadium realized what had just happened, they cheered Monday's effort and broke out into spontaneous singing of "God Bless America."
Dodger coach Tommy Lasorda was in the third-base coaching box when the incident happened. He ran past Monday toward the men, yelling profanities at them. Lasorda would say later that he planned to grab the flag, but Monday beat him to it.
The Baseball Hall of Fame named Monday's act as one of the 100 Classic Moments in the history of the game.
But Monday has been quoted as saying, “I don’t know anyone who wouldn't have done the same thing.”
Even though Monday wasn't a Dodger at the time, many Dodger fans who are old enough to remember the incident consider it one of the most patriotic moments to ever occur at Dodger Stadium.
While the incident wasn't part of any Memorial Day observance, I did think about it as I was reflecting about the meaning of Memorial Day.
I thank all our veterans, especially those men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Do you remember the day Rick Monday saved the American flag? Do you have another sports related patriotic moment that you remember? Let me know in the comment section below.
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