The game of word association is almost comically easy, nowadays. Type "Rick Monday" into Google and the word "flag" automatically populates.
The story of Rick Monday saving an American flag from a pair of protestors intending to burn it in center field at Dodger Stadium on April 25, 1976, has been told and retold more times than any of us could count. The various recollections and surrounding stories, like this one, often elicit a reaction as if something got in your eye for many. There's now a bobblehead commemorating that event.
This column is in no way, shape, or form is meant to infringe on the memory of that day. But I can't do justice to that story. What I can do is tell you a little bit about how Rick Monday performed as a major league baseball player.
Monday's career spanned 19 seasons, starting in 1966 at the tender age of 20 for the Kansas City Athletics (that age is not a typo, kids). He played his first six seasons as an 'A', the first two in Kansas City and the next four out in the now customary Oakland. He then spent the next five years from 1972-76 with the Cubs after Chicago traded Ken Holtzman to the A's. His final eight seasons were spent with the Dodgers, for whom he now works as a broadcaster.
For his career, Monday hit .264/.361/.443 while spending most of his time patrolling center field. He was worth 31.1 WAR over that long career.
For a change, the Cubs got the best year's of a player's career. They traded for Monday at the best possible time, having him on the roster for his age 26-30 seasons. For his five seasons in Cubbie blue, Monday hit .270/.366/.460 with an OPS+ of 125. Fangraphs' WAR calculations didn't think much of Monday's defense, suppressing his value. Still, he was worth 9.7 WAR including a career best 3.9 WAR in that 1976 season.
Following that season, the Cubs dealt Monday (along with Mike Garman) to the Dodgers for Bill Buckner, Ivan DeJesus, and Jeff Albert. Monday never topped 1.8 WAR as a Dodger. Meanwhile, the Cubs got the mostly solid prime of Buckner, including his batting title in 1980.
So when you think of Rick Monday, think of the day he saved the flag. But don't forget he was a pretty nice player for the five Cubs teams and was included in a pair of influential trades.