The old flag made it back to Dodger Stadium. The flag was tattered, its colors faded, but its relevance was not. It was the flag that Rick Monday, then an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs, rescued from the two men that tried to light it afire in the Dodger Stadium outfield 40 years ago Monday.
Monday displayed the flag at the ballpark and threw out the ceremonial first pitch to mark the anniversary. The Dodgers presented him with the flag in 1976, and since then he and his wife Barbaralee have traveled the country with it and he has posed for countless pictures with it, all as a way to raise funds for organizations that help soldiers and their families.
“The very symbol that represents the rights and freedoms for all of us in this country is the flag,” Monday said. “The very flag that two guys were trying to desecrate on this field 40 years ago has helped raise money for military charities. It continues to live.
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“Long after I’m gone, this is something my family will continue to do. We’ve had great response all around this country.”
Monday, 70, said he has declined a $1-million offer for the flag, as well as a request from the Baseball Hall of Fame to display it there.
For nearly a decade after he rescued the flag, Monday said the only evidence he had was the radio call by Vin Scully.
“To this day, when I hear Vinny’s call, I still get goose bumps,” Monday said. “I listened to Vin in Santa Monica growing up.”
In 1984, a television executive asked Monday if he had seen a video of the event.
“Seen it?” he said. “I didn’t even know it existed.”
The executive sent a copy to Monday’s home that afternoon.
Monday was the first player selected in the first amateur draft in 1965 and he enjoyed a 19-year major league career, including two All-Star appearances and a World Series title with the 1981 Dodgers. He said he probably is better known for that one afternoon, and that one swipe of the flag.
“What I did that afternoon, I just spoke for the people that I know in this country that love this country and didn’t like what those people were trying to do,” Monday said. “To me, it was a slap in the face to anyone that has ever put on a military uniform, and to their families.”
Did he think about what to do that day, or did he just act out of instinct?
“You don’t have to think about something if it’s right and wrong,” he said.