The first ever pick in the modern amateur draft, Rick Monday was a power-hitting center fielder whose best years came with the Chicago Cubs in the 1970s. Best remembered today as the ballplayer who saved the American flag when a couple of nuts tried to burn it at Dodger Stadium, Monday became a national hero because of the incident. Rick currently works in broadcasting.
When the Kansas City A’s made Monday the first pick in the first amateur draft in 1965, they rushed the Arizona State star to the Majors the following season. In his brief big league action in ’66, Rick failed to even hit .100. He made up for it in 1967 when he showed the power that he’d eventually come to be known for when he slugged 14 long balls in ’67.
Named to the AL All-Star team in 1968, Rick hit a modest .274 (well above average for the pitching charged era) while leading AL center fielders in walks drawn. Monday always accepted a large total of walks but he also fanned a great deal during his career as well. He reached 70 walks six times in his career but also reached 100 strikeouts on eight separate occasions. After missing a portion of the ’69 season to injury, Rick hit a nifty .290 in 1970.
Around this time the A’s, who had relocated to Oakland a few years earlier, were building a strong team. They needed another pitcher to go with Catfish Hunter and Blue Moon Odom so they used Rick as trade bait to acquire southpaw Ken Holtzman–a fixture in the A’s rotation during their three consecutive World Championship teams. Although Rick missed out on winning three Fall Classics, he found Wrigley Field to his liking. He led NL center fielders in walks his first year with the Cubs but in 1973 his power bat came to life. Rick clubbed 26 dingers in ’73–tops among NL center fielders.
One of the top players in the National League in the mid 1970s, Rick was the only center fielder in the senior circuit with 20 homeruns that was able to hit above .275–Rick hit .294. At his slugging best in 1976, he led Major League center fielders with 32 homeruns. Monday was the only center fielder in the big leagues to post a slugging average over .500 that season. With Rick at the top of his power game in ’76, the Cubs traded him to the Dodgers for two solid youngsters named Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus.
He made his way back to the postseason his first year with the Dodgers as he hit .286 in the 1977 NLCS. The Dodgers repeated as NL champs in 1978 but for the second straight year, lost the World Series to the Yankees. When the injury bug bit in 1979–he was limited to just twelve games–Monday was never again a regular player. He became a valuable reserve for Lasorda’s Dodgers in the early 1980s and was able to win his World Series ring in 1981. He ended his career with the Dodgers in 1984.
G 1,986/R 950/H 1,619/2B 248/3B 64/HR 241/RBI 775/SB 98/BB 924/SO 1,513/BA .264/SA .443/OBP .361