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On April 25, 1976, the year of the American Bicentennial celebrations, Chicago Cubs outfielder Rick Monday saved an American flag from being burned by two protestors who had trespassed onto the field during a game at Dodger Stadium. As the bottom of the fourth inning got underway, the protesters placed the flag in left-center field and doused it with kerosene. Playing center field, Monday spotted the protesters and raced across the field, snatching the flag just as one of the trespassers was about to set a lighted match to it.

The crowd at the stadium spontaneously began to sing “God Bless America” after the inning ended, and as Mr. Monday came to bat in the top of the fifth inning, the stadium scoreboard lit up with the message, “RICK MONDAY… YOU MADE A GREAT PLAY.” As a newspaper headline proclaimed the next day: “Dodgers win 5-4, but a Cub saves the day.” Mr. Monday still owns the flag, having turned down various monetary offers, up to a million dollars, for it. Today, he brings the flag to fundraising events he holds on behalf of United States military veterans.

A two-time All-Star, Mr. Monday played nineteen seasons in Major League Baseball, becoming a Los Angeles Dodger the year following his heroic act at Dodger Stadium. Now a radio analyst for those same Dodgers, Mr. Monday recently reflected on the the actions of the protesters that day: “What they were doing was wrong then, in 1976. In my mind, it’s wrong now…. It’s the way I was raised. My thoughts were reinforced with my six years in the Marine Corp Reserves. It was also reinforced by a lot of friends who lost their lives protecting the rights and freedoms that flag represented. I still feel that way and very happy that I was geographically close enough to stop these guys from desecrating the American flag.”

James Roark’s photograph of the incident was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Learn more about the story by watching the short video below:

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