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!
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! 🙂