MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- On April 25, 1976, the Chicago Cubs traveled to Dodger Stadium to play the Los Angeles Dodgers in a Major League Baseball game. During the game, two trespassers ran onto the field and tried to set fire to an American flag they brought with them.
The intruders darted into the outfield and stopped near center field. With a can of lighter fluid and matches in hand, the young men unfurled the flag, doused it in lighter fluid and lit a match with plans to burn the flag in Dodger Stadium’s center field. The wind blew out the first match.
As they attempted to get another match lit, Rick Monday, playing center field for the Cubs that season, darted over and grabbed the flag from their hands. The fans in the stadium reacted with a roaring cheer. One of the protesters threw the can of lighter fluid at Monday as he jogged calmly off the field with the flag he saved. The ballpark police arrested the two trespassers.
The flag has been in safe keeping with the Monday family since the incident.
On June 17, Monday’s wife, Barbara, embarked on a journey with the flag to deliver it to Rick at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on July 4 where he is now a professional announcer for Dodger baseball. She traveled from their Vero Beach, Fla., home and was escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders. The Patriot Guard Riders are motorcycle riders who support their beliefs of showing sincere respect for fallen service members, their families, and their communities by shielding mourning family and friends from interruptions created by protestors through strictly legal and non-violent means.
The Patriot Guard Riders started in August 2005 as a gathering of American Legion motorcycle riders and has since developed into a group of veterans, motorcyclists, and others who attend funerals of service members at the invitation of the deceased’s family.
On June 30, 13 days into the trip, the convoy of Patriot Guard Riders, Monday’s family and the flag visited the Combat Center.
The riders of the convoy met with Combat Center Marines at the Provost Marshal’s Office. They shared with the Marines the story of the flag and their mission.
"I thought this was a great way to bring more attention to the flag and its importance," said Barbara, speaking of the 17-day journey with the Patriot Guard Riders to Dodger Stadium. "Along the way I learned that our nation is rooting for us. This flag means so much to me, and it can mean so much to others if they know the story. That day it was about a man defending his country, not a baseball game."
The Monday family has been offered $1 million for the flag, but to them it’s priceless, said Barbara.
Although Rick was not part of the trip, he spoke to some Combat Center Marines over the phone.
"My family and I are honored that the Marines in Twentynine Palms took time to meet with the riders," said Rick, a former reserve Marine. "That flag represents a lot of rights and freedoms. Hopefully we make a difference."
Rick also reminisced about the incident.
"When I saw and figured out what they were doing, I was in shock," he said. "I knew what they wanted to do was wrong and I thought to myself, ‘not on my watch.’"
More so than the expedition of motorcyclists and the flag, Barbara expressed to the Combat Center Marines the gratitude she has for their service.
"This really isn’t just about getting the flag back to Dodger Stadium, it’s about you guys, and letting you know that we are always here for you," said Barbara. "This trip is to remind everyone in the country how much you do for us."