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United Press International, file
Cubs outfielder Rick Monday rescues an American flag as two protesters attempt to set it on fire during a 1976 game.
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Player who saved flag from desecration honored

People have given him dozens of American flags, which have flown over the White House and Baghdad, over state capitols and with the French Air Force. It's all because in one impulsive moment, Rick Monday saved Old Glory from being burned.

The Vietnam War had ended a year before when two protesters dashed onto the field at Dodger Stadium, carrying something under their arm. It was an American flag, and as they tried to light it, Monday, then a Chicago Cubs outfielder, ran from center field to left and snatched it out of their hands.

On that day, April 25, 1976, he became an American hero.

Yesterday, Monday, now an announcer with the Los Angeles Dodgers, got another flag to add to his collection, one flown over Valley Forge National Historical Park. It was presented by Montgomery County Sheriff John P. Durante, a friend of the former major- leaguer, at a luncheon for about 20 in Norristown.

"I remember seeing it that day on TV," Durante said. "I thought then and I still do, what a heroic act."

The reason he did what he did, Monday said, was simple: It was the right thing.

"My feeling in 1976 is the same as it is today, that two individuals were wrong in desecrating a symbol of the rights and freedoms that we have," said the 18-year major-leaguer, who retired in 1984 and was in town with the Dodgers, who concluded a four-game series against the Phillies last night.

Two years ago, on the 30th anniversary of the historic moment, the Baseball Hall of Fame voted Monday's act as one of the 100 classic moments in the history of the game.

It was also the first time the rescued flag had been out of a bank vault. To celebrate the anniversary, Monday's wife, Barbara Lee Casciari-Monday, rode with a motorcycle group, Patriot Guard Riders, from the couple's home in Vero Beach, Fla., to Dodger Stadium with the flag and one sent by a medic in Iraq.

They turned the trip into a fund-raiser for military causes, and have raised about a million dollars so far, Casciari-Monday said.

Since then, Monday, a former Marine Corps reservist, has shared the flag with President and Mrs. Bush and with injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"Those are the heroes," said Monday, 62, tall and tanned with a baritone voice and thick silver hair.

Most of the flags that people send them are displayed in their home. The Valley Forge flag was neatly folded in a glass display case.

Before the luncheon, about 20 guests saw a grainy videotape of the historic game that was discovered in 1984.

It showed two people jumping over a railing in left field, and spreading the American flag onto the Dodger Stadium turf. One man doused the flag with lighter fluid.

The other lit a match.

Monday ran over, grabbed the flag, and carried it to safety.

What they didn't see was what happened after. The crowd sat in stunned silence, then stood and cheered, and spontaneously started singing "God Bless America."


Contact staff writer Kathy Boccella at 610-313-8123 or kboccella@phillynews.com.

 

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