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Rick Monday’s career as a Major League Baseball outfielder was remarkably long for a .264 hitter with average power. Even more remarkable, however, is that the mention of his name triggers a single memory for every fan: the day he rescued the American flag from protesters at Dodger Stadium.

Rick Monday played 19 MLB seasons

Outfielder Rick Monday had the distinction of being the first man selected in baseball’s 1965 draft, taken by the Kansas City Athletics ahead of future big-league players Billy Conigliaro, Ray Fosse, and Bernie Carbo in the first round.

It started Monday on the path to a 19-season career in the big leagues with the A’s (now in Oakland), Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Though he was an every-day player for most of his career, Monday never led the league in a batting category or won a Gold Glove. He finished his career with 241 home runs, 775 RBIs, and two selections to the All-Star Game.

His most memorable swing of the bat came in the deciding game of the 1981 National League Championship Series when Monday belted a two-out, two-run homer for the Dodgers in the top of the ninth inning to beat the Montreal Expos, 2-1. Los Angeles went on to win the World Series over the New York Yankees.

Rick Monday’s inspiring split-second decision

Rick Monday and the Chicago Cubs were playing in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on April 25, 1976. Two fans jumped the fence at Dodger Stadium in the bottom of the fourth inning and stopped in the outfield, where they unfurled an American flag on the ground and doused it with lighter fluid.

The wind blew out the match on their first attempt to set the flag on fire, then Monday charged in from center field as the second match was being lit. He scooped up the flag on the run and kept going, handing it to Dodgers pitcher Doug Rau near the dugout.

“What I knew was what they were doing was wrong then, and it’s wrong today. I had a lot of friends who lost their lives protecting the rights and freedoms that flag represented.

Rick Monday, 2016

The Los Angeles crowd cheered Monday while stadium security apprehended the two protesters – a man and his 11-year-old son. What happened next that afternoon during the nation’s bicentennial year was spine-tingling: The crowd began singing “God Bless America.”

“I still get goosebumps,” Monday said. “The crowd reaction was rewarding. The fans made it clear they had a total dislike for what those guys were trying to do. The crowd reaction was inspiring.”

The aftermath of saving the flag

Rick Monday, who had served six years in the Marine Reserves after college and is now 74 years old, became an instant celebrity beyond the baseball world by grabbing the flag away from two protesters that day.

He was honored during on-field ceremonies at stadiums across the country and at civic events. On “Rick Monday Day” at Wrigley Field shortly after the incident, a Dodgers executive presented the flag to the Chicago Cubs outfielder.

Monday, who began his broadcasting career in Los Angeles in 1985 and has been doing Dodgers games since 1993, has been offered as much as $1 million for the flag but has turned down all offers. Instead, Monday and his wife put the flag to use by touring the country with it to raise money for military charities.