"NOT TODAY, COMMIES!"
–Rick Monday, probably
A Major League career that spanned 19 seasons is still defined by the 10 seconds that Rick Monday still can't remember with great detail.
On April 25, 1976, Monday was a member of the Chicago Cubs on a Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Chicago right-hander Ken Crosby was facing leadoff hitter Ted Sizemore. In the corner of his eye from his position in center field, Monday noticed two fans had run onto the field.
"I don't know what I was thinking," said Monday, who had spent six years in the Marine Corp reserve. "But I knew what they were doing was wrong."
The pair was attempting to set fire to an American flag after dousing it with lighter fluid. But the matches kept blowing out in the breeze, giving Monday a chance to sprint and snatch the cloth. Monday handed the flag to Dodger pitcher Doug Rau, who was not in the game.
In the press box, Dodger Vice President of Marketing Fred Claire instructed operators of the stadium's left field message board to type: "Rick Monday … You Made A Great Play." A spontaneous chorus of "God Bless America" resonated from the crowd of 25,167.
"If you're going to burn the flag, don't do it around me," Monday said after the game, won by the Dodgers 5–4 in 10 innings. "I've been to too many veterans' hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it."