2006/04/25

Patriot on the field

30 years ago today there was a true american patriot that was not in the service but on the field.

LOS ANGELES -- It was 1976, a fun year for America. It was the country's bicentennial, the war in Vietnam had ended a year earlier and everyone really wanted to put all the problems from the 1960s, Watergate and Vietnam behind them and just enjoy the country's yearlong 200th birthday party.

On April 25, the Chicago Cubs were visiting Dodger Stadium for a three-game series. Playing center field for the Cubs was Rick Monday, the first player taken in the amateur draft that was created 11 years earlier. Monday was born and raised in Santa Monica, Calif., so playing in front of his friends and family was always special to him. On this day, fate would hand Monday a moment that people still talk about with reverence 30 years later. Monday recounts the moment in his own words.

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, in 2006. 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.

"A lot of people don't know this, but he beat me to the flag," recalls Lasorda. "I saw Rick start running over from center field to left. I didn't know what it was, but as soon as I saw him start, I took off and I ran out there, and of course, by that time, Rick had picked up the flag and continued running. When I got there, I see these two guys and I told them, 'Why don't one of you guys take a swing at me?' because there were 50-something thousand people in the ballpark and I only wanted them to swing at me, so I could defend myself and do a job on them."

Monday continued, "Doug Rau, a left-handed pitcher for the Dodgers at the time, came out of the dugout and I handed the flag to him. The two guys were led off the field through the Dodger bullpen.

"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."


"That means something, because this wasn't just a flag on the field. This was a flag that people looked at with respect."
-- Rick Monday

Thirty years ago, cable television was in its infancy and the Dodgers rarely, if ever, televised a home game. A Super 8 film of the incident would not surface until 1984, so the moment might have been captured only by Vin Scully's vivid description of it on radio. Luckily, in the photographers' well that day was the late James Rourke, who was shooting stills for the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Rourke had the perfect angle and snapped the now-classic photo of Monday whisking the stars and stripes away just as one of the protesters was going to light it on fire.

Monday, who played for the Dodgers from 1977-83 and has been one of the team's broadcasters since 1993, then recalled the impact the moment had on a country that was wanting so badly to show its patriotism again.

this was taken from mlb.com

3 Comments:

At April 25, 2006, Blogger Palm boy said...

Wow...
I would have clubbed them with a baseball bat.

 
At April 25, 2006, Blogger DAWEED said...

Tommy lasorda clubbed them with his tounge
LOL

 
At April 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

cool story.

 

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