Rick Monday and the Flag-Burning Incident in 1976

Here is the start of the Los Angeles Times’ story covering this Cubs-Dodgers game in Los Angeles, on April 25, 1976:

Further down, after noting that Dodgers third baseman Ron Cey singled in Ted Sizemore in the bottom of the 10th to win the game, the Times wrote:

Monday’s outfield “play” drew the warmest—and maybe loudest—ovation of the afternoon, however. William Errol Thomas, 37, unemployed, of Eldon, Mo., had come out of the left-field pavilion with a youngster identified by police as his son, and was attempting to set fire to a Flag when Monday, running from center field, intervened. Thomas, who had sprinkled lighter fluid on the Flag, threw the can at Monday as he fled with the Flag.

“He got down on his knees and I could tell he wasn’t throwing holy water on it,” Monday [a Cub at the time] said. “If he’s going to burn a Flag, he better do it in front of somebody who doesn’t appreciate it. I’ve visited enough veterans’ hospitals and seen enough guys with their legs blown off defending the Flag.”

Monday did not feel the standing ovation was his. “The way people reacted was fantastic,” he said, “but I felt they were cheering for what the Flag meant.”

Police said Thomas was arrested for trespassing and taken to Parker Center. So was Joe Shaver, 30, Santa Monica, who police said attempted to get into the dugout to shake Monday’s hand. The youngster with Thomas reportedly was taken to juvenile hall.

Monday sent a note to the Dodgers asking for the Flag, but was told it had to be impounded, at least temporarily, as evidence.

So Rick Monday captured one Flag and the Dodgers hit and fielded like they are going to have to hit and field if they expect to get the one they are after.

Note that the Times capitalized it as “Flag”: apparently that was the paper’s editorial policy, but I don’t know if “Flag” instead of “flag” was common practice at other papers in the mid-’70s.

A couple days later, this follow-on story from the Times gave Thomas’ reason, at least the one he gave at the time, for trying to burn the flag:

As a little piece of context for Monday’s flag rescue, here is the Times’ box score for the 5-4 Dodgers win:

Finally, here, in two parts, is a feature story from Ross Newhan of the Times in late April of ’76, profiling Monday and the response to the flag rescue. Monday was a Santa Monica native, which may have played some part in his action in Dodgers Stadium and the aftermath of his flag rescue, although of course this was not a parochial Southern California story. The Times mentions that the Dodgers were pursuing Monday at the time: they got him, in a trade for the Dodgers’ Bill Buckner in early ’77, and Monday spent the last eight years of his career with the Dodgers, winning three pennants and a World Series (check his stats).

Published in: on January 8, 2014 at 9:59 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I remembered when this happened. I was too young at the time to understand the political significance of the event, but I did think it was kind of cool for him to rescue the flag.

  2. On a completely unrelated note, it’s funny to see how primitive the 1976 boxscore looks, compared to today. All the pitchers are lumped together in a single column without team designation, such that you have to count innings to figure out where the Cubs pitchers end and the Dodgers pitchers begin.

    On a second unrelated note, the pitching lines look almost like those of today — with Stoney leaving in the 2nd due to injury (of course… story of his career!) and Rhoden being very ineffective and getting yanked after 6 (5 walks, 0 strikeouts??) So much for all those complete-game artists of the ’70s… not that afternoon!

    Spotting the famous names is fun — Nick Swisher’s dad, game-show-host Peter Marshall’s son, and the rubber-armed Hough and Mike Marshall (no relation) pitching 4 relief innings to help LA win it.

    And the funniest part of all… Bill Buckner batting leadoff!!

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