Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the “greatest play in baseball” by former Chicago Cubs center fielder and Marine veteran Rick Monday.
During the fourth inning of an April 25, 1976 game in which the Los Angles Dodgers hosted the Chicago Cubs, Monday famously ran across the field to surprise two fans by grabbing the American flag they were attempting to burn.
Moments before Monday grabbed the flag, two fans trespassed on the field and doused the flag with lighter fluid, and attempted to used matches to set the flag on fire. Monday has famously said he saw an opportunity to grab the flag after seeing the first match they used failed to work.
The legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully famously said, “It looks like he’s gonna burn a flag!”
Proceeding to say, “Rick Monday runs and takes it away from him. … I think somebody was going to set fire to the American flag. Can you imagine that.”
The protesters were arrested shortly after Monday secured the flag from them.
When Monday came up to bat in the top of the fifth inning, he received a standing ovation. The scoreboard flashed the message, “Rick Monday…you made a great play.”
“It angered me for a lot of reasons,” said Monday during an interview with NBC Sports on one of the anniversaries of his iconic moment in history. “First of all, you’re interrupting the game. Secondly, now you’re bringing out a flag, and I was only about three or four years removed from being in the Marine Reserves.”
Monday was traded to the Dodgers the following year and went on to help them win three pennants. He ended a 19-year career in the MLB with 1,986 career games with the Athletics, Cubs, and Dodgers. The outfielder earned a lifetime .264 batting average with 241 home runs and 775 RBI. He currently works for the Dodgers organization in their broadcast booth.
Later in the year, when the Dodgers were in Chicago, the Dodgers organization presented Monday with that same American flag on “Rick Monday Day.” He and his wife take it around the country to tell his historical story and raise money for military charities.
Monday said, “from time to time people ask, ‘well are you upset because you spent 19 season in the major leagues and you’re known for primarily stopping two people from burning the flag,'” he continued to say, “if that’s all I’m known for that’s not a bad thing at all.”
The former baseball player in the past has also said, “It’s a good thing I did get it because I did not want any of my former drill instructors from the Marine Corps to come and say, ‘Hey Marine! Why did you stand there and watch when they ignited the American flag?’”