That Sunday was an away game for the Chicago Cubs, an afternoon matinee with a 1:00 start time at Los Angeles’ Dodger stadium. April 25, 1976 was hazy with a light breeze and a high of 70 degrees. It was a great day for a ball game.
The count was 1-0 with Dodgers second baseman Ted Sizemore, at bat. It was the bottom of the 4th and announcer Vin Scully, doing the play-by-play:
“Wait a minute, there’s an animal loose . . . two of them . . . all right . . . I’m not sure what he’s doing out there . . . it looks like he’s going to burn a flag . . . and Rick Monday runs and takes it away from him!”Vin Scully
These particular animals had succeeded in soaking an American flag with lighter fluid, but they weren’t quite fast enough with the match.
Rick Monday was playing Center Field for the Cubs. Describing the scene, Monday said “He got down on his knees, and I could tell he wasn’t throwing holy water on it”.
Monday dashed over and grabbed the flag, to thunderous applause from the 25,167 in attendance. All but two, that is. By that time. those fools were being carted off in handcuffs.
Monday came out to bat in the top of the 5th and got a standing ovation from Dodger fans, while the message board flashed “RICK MONDAY… YOU MADE A GREAT PLAY…”
The arrested were later identified as 37-year old William Errol Thomas and his eleven year old son. Poor kid. He’d be about 56 now. I wonder how he turned out.
Thomas was convicted of trespassing and ordered to pay a $60 fine or spend three days, in jail. The man was unemployed and didn’t have anything better to do with his days, so he took the time.
Rick Monday was serving a six-year tour with the Marine Corp Reserves in fulfillment of his ROTC obligation after leaving Arizona State. The man had no use for flag burners. “If you’re going to burn the flag”, he said, “don’t do it around me. I’ve been to too many veterans’ hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it.”
Rick Monday requested the flag after the game but it had to be held, pending police investigation. Nine days later, Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis presented Monday with that same flag, during a pregame ceremony at Wrigley Field. He’s been offered up to a million dollars for that flag but declines, all offers.
“As the cheering died, everybody in the stands started singing ‘God Bless America,’ ” Monday recalled. “I was stunned. I stood there and got chills.”Los Angeles Times columnist, Bill Plaschke
You can see the whole episode at the link below. My favorite part has got to be that impotent little temper tantrum at the end, when the protester throws his little bottle of lighter fluid, at the outfielder’s back. Like a runt piglet, squealing at a passing stallion.