The Most Patriotic Player in Baseball

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Some players earn their fame with their bat.  Some players earn it with their glove.  Some even earn it with their golden arms.  But there is only one who earned it with his true patriotism.  

I’m just a day late here, but worked a long day yesterday so I didn’t get a chance to get on here to post this.  On January 11, 1977, the Cubs traded Rick Monday to the Dodgers for Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus.  I thought I would share a little story about Mr. Monday from the Cubs Convention last year.

However, before I do this, I’ll give a little background on Rick Monday, for that casual Cub fan that might run across this and may not be familiar with his story.  Rick Monday is one of the most famous players in baseball history.  But not because he was a great hitter.  Not because his fielding percentage was off the charts.  He was your average MLB ballplayer.  Rick Monday did something much more heroic, much more meaningful, not just to baseball, but for our country.

On Apri 25, 1976, the Chicago Cubs were taking on the LA Dodgers in Dodger Stadium.  Monday noticed two protesters kneeling down in left center field.  They were trying to light a match, and he then noticed that in front of them was an American flag.  These protesters had planned on setting fire to the flag!  Not even thinking of his safety or what was about to happen, Monday charged at the protesters, and as he ran by them, he grabbed the gasoline-doused flag away from them and kept running with the flag toward the infield.  Monday, who was not only a baseball player, but he had also served in the Marines for six years prior to his baseball career, knew he had to do something.  (You can watch the YouTube video with the actual footage of the incident… a must see for any Cub fan, and it will truly make you understand why what I witnessed at the Convention last year truly touched my heart).  I was only a few years old at the time the actual incident happened, but thanks to YouTube and MLB network, I had become very familiar with his story.

Later that year, at Wrigley Field, the Dodgers presented Rick Monday with that very flag that he saved.

Fast forward 36 years.  On the last day of the Convention, the festivities were starting to wind down.  Many of the players had left for the weekend, unless they had scheduled events on Sunday morning.  My 12 year old son had spent almost all weekend down in the Kid Interactive Zone where the Illinois Baseball Academy had set up batting cages and pitching mounds for the kids to get instructions by various players.  We ate our breakfast and were going to head back down to the cages as Keith Moreland was supposed to be giving some hitting instructions that morning.  When we got down there, Moreland was nowhere to be found, but instead, Rick Monday showed up!  Now, these kids, for the most part, didn’t have a clue as to who he was.  Heck, there were some adults whispering “Who is that?  That’s not Moreland”, but Rick was WONDERFUL with the kids!  He actually stayed an extra hour to make sure he was able to spend quite a bit of time with each kid that grabbed a bat.  While my son was waiting his turn, I gave him the quick rundown and story of Rick Monday, and he remembered seeing it on the MLB Network countdowns.

After the batting instructions were over, Rick was signing a few autographs for the kids, and this elderly man, probably in his seventies, came up to Rick.  He was wearing one of those Cubs Hawaiian shirts that you see at Wrigley Field on a hot summer day, you know the ones that have just a very busy Cubs print?  He was wearing a US Marines hat.  He got in the short “autograph line” right behind my son.  He didn’t have a Sharpie, or a baseball to sign, he just quietly waited his turn.  I had a feeling that what he wanted to do was going to be pretty heartwarming, so as soon as Rick signed my son’s jersey for him, I pulled him aside and told him to watch what was about to happen.  The elderly gentleman put out his worn and wrinkled hand, his eyes started to glisten, as if the tears were trying to make their way to the surface, and said “Mr. Monday.  I served in the Marines for eighteen years, and I just wanted to say “Thank you.  Thank you so much for what you did for our country that day.”  Rick shook his hand, then he took his other hand and clasped them around the elderly gentleman’s hand, holding it between his hands, and Rick responded, “No, sir, thank YOU for your service.  YOU are why I did what I did.”   They began to exchange military stories and we walked away to let the two gentlemen have their privacy.  It was a moment that I was so glad my son had a chance to witness!  Such a small gesture, on both men’s parts, yet it said so much!

Rick Monday gives batting instructions

I think it was right then that my son understood the significance of the story that I told him.  He understood that it was more than just a piece of red, white and blue material that was saved from being destroyed that day.  I could see the wheels in his little head turning, and then it dawned on him that he had just spent quite a bit of time in the batting cage with that hero!  It was such a wonderful way to end the most amazing weekend we had ever had together.

With the Convention just a week away, I’ve heard that Rick Monday will be back again this year, and from what I am hearing, he is bringing the flag with him!  What an amazing treat that would be!

I will be tweeting from the convention (if I have better cell or internet service than I had at the Hilton last year).  You can follow me (yes, click on the link 🙂 )  and I will be using the hashtags #CubsCon!  I’m sure I’ll have PLENTY of stories to share! 🙂

About ryno4ever

I'm a 3rd generation Cub fan who lives and breathes with this team! I've ridden the roller coaster of Cubdom since 1984. I've celebrated the highs, I've cried for days on the lows. I have a teenage son who I have blessed/cursed him with the Cubbie Blue blood. On April 1, 2011, my son, dad and I were chosen to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day at Wrigley Field and I'm pretty sure that there isn't much else out there in life that will ever top that day!

One Reply to “The Most Patriotic Player in Baseball”

  1. i’m 73 years old and have been a cubs fan since i was 4 years old, my dad took me to my first cubs game a double header in the bleachers!!!, was 1945!!! do you think that was the play-offs??? what i couldn’t believe was that so many people were there!! i was to little to understand. my dad bought me everything that day.!! it may have been the play offs!! well my wish is to sing the 7th, inning stretch song, “take me out to the ball game.!!!”” i still can sing that song pretty good , compared to some you have on!!! L.O.L. PLEASE LET ME COMPLETE MY LIFE’S DREAM??? I ALSO HAVE TWO CUBS BASEBALLS SIGNED BY ALL THE PLAYERS IN 1953&1954. ORIGINAL , DUTCH LEONARD WAS 3RD. BASE COACH AT THAT TIME .. HIS SISTER “TILLIE ARTEC” ALWAYS CAME TO MY MOTHERS “BEAUTY SHOP”. TILLIE WOULD TAKE ME UP TO SEE THE CUBS AND AFTER THE GAME WE WOULD GO TO THE LOCKER ROOM AND WAIT FOR “DUTCH” TO COME OUT. HE WOULD ALWAYS BRING ME A SIGNED AUTOGRAPH BASEBALL FROM THE WHOLE TEAM !! NOT PRINTED OUT LIKE TODAY, BUT THE REAL THING!! NAMES LIKE “ERNIE BANKS,- RALPH KIENER., “DUTCH’ -,”LEO DUROACHER”-, ” LOU BOUDROU” ” JOHNNY KLIPSTIEN” WHO MARRIED “DUTCH’S” DAUGHTER. “RANSOME JACKSON” , THE WHOLE TEAM!! THEN “DUTCH” WOULD TAKE “TILLIE AND I OUT TO EAT AT “CARIO”S . FIRST TIME I HAD EVER BEEN IN A FANCY RESTAURANT!! WHAT A GOOD DAY AT THE BALL PARK!! THANKS TO “DUTCH AND “TILLIE,” TILLIE WAS FROM JOLIET, AND “DUTCH” LIVED IN DIAMOND ,ILL. SOUTH OF JOLIET. I WAS 14 YEARS OLD -15 YEARS OLD. BACK THEN I CHERISH THOSE MEMORIES!!! THEY WERE SO GOOD TO ME !! IN FACT I STILL HAVE “TILLIES ” OBIT FROM THE JOLIET HERALD NEWS !! I NEVER DID KNOW “DUTCH’S” FIRST NAME. I ALWAYS CALLED HIM “DUTCH”. BUT IN TILLIE’S OBIT SHE IS SURVIVED BY TWO BROTHERS. FRANK AND TONY. I DO BELIEVE “DUTCH”, MAY HAVE BEEN FRANK??? NOW YOU KNOW MY STORY AND WHY I WANT TO BE A PART OF THE CUBS AT WRIGLEY FIELD AND SING THE 7TH, INNING STRETCH.!! BEFORE IT’S TO LATE!! I OWE THAT TO “DUTCH” AND HIS SISTER TILLIE , AND ALL THE OLD TIMERS!!!! GIVE ME A SHOT AT IT?? I WILL DO MY BEST. ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME THEO???? WAY BEFORE YOUR TIME!!! I LOVE MY CUBBIES!!! YOUR BEST FAN . PEGGY KARSTENS, ELWOOD ,ILL. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME!!!

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