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Old 05-23-2006, 09:17 AM   #1
TxVrod
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Protecting the Flag - 30 years ago...

By Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY

The hand was trembling, the voice was quivering and tears were running down his face.

The World War II soldier, who survived the Pearl Harbor attack, looked Rick Monday in the eyes, slowly raised his right arm, and saluted him.

"Thank you," Monday recalls the soldier telling him last year. "And thank you from all of my shipmates."

Thirty years ago today, Monday became an American hero.

It was the day he saved the American flag.

"It was the greatest heroic act that's ever happened on a baseball field," Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda said. "He protected the symbol of everything that we live for. And the symbol that we live in the greatest country in the world."

The Hall of Fame recently voted Monday's act as one of the 100 classic moments in the history of the game. Monday, who spent 19 years in the major leagues and is a Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster, will be honored tonight with a video tribute at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

They'll replay a grainy videotape that was discovered in 1984 showing two people jumping over the railing in left field and spreading the American flag onto the Dodger Stadium turf. One man dousing the flag with lighter fluid. The other lighting a match. And Monday, playing for the Chicago Cubs, running in from center field, grabbing the flag and carrying it to safety.

Mondaysavesflag

They'll play Vin Scully's voice from the radio broadcast: "Wait a minute, there's an animal loose. Two of them! I'm not sure what he's doing out there. It looks like he's going to burn a flag. ..

"And Rick Monday runs and takes it away from him!"

And perhaps the crowd will duplicate the same reaction as 30 years ago: sitting in stunned silence, then standing, cheering and spontaneously singing Bless America.

"It moved the entire crowd," Monday said. "I don't remember if we won or lost the game, but I'll never forget the people singing."

Monday, 60, a six-year veteran of the Marine Corps Reserves, still receives letters each week about the incident. Most are from military veterans, others from kids wanting to learn about American history.

"The world has changed," Monday said. "We weren't that far removed from Vietnam at the time. But what they were trying to do in 1976 was wrong. It's still wrong today.

"That little piece of cloth represents a lot of rights and freedoms that people have given up their lives to protect."

"It was a dramatic day, and a day that made you proud to be in baseball," Commissioner Bud Selig said.

Today, questions remain:

Why did these protesters, William Thomas, 36, and his 11-year-old son run onto the field to burn the flag? They were arrested and fined $60. Monday said he never was interested in asking. Attempts to locate Thomas, or to determine whether he's still alive, were unsuccessful.

What happened to the photographer, James Roark, of the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner, who shot the only photo of the incident? Roark, whose photo was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, lost his job, became a night cook in Portland and was beaten and killed outside a restaurant in 1995. He was 49.

And the tattered flag that was soaked with lighter fluid? It's in Monday's possession in a safe-deposit box, surviving the hurricanes near his Vero Beach, Fla., home. He was offered $1 million for the flag several years ago, he said, but rejected the overture.

"The flag is faded, and it's somewhat tattered," Monday said. "It wasn't like it was just bought off the shelf. It wasn't in great shape from the start.

"But the flag is not for sale. What this flag represents, you can't buy."
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Old 05-23-2006, 09:27 AM   #2
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Old 05-23-2006, 09:56 AM   #3
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Beautiful, man. Just beautiful. Wish I could go to the game just for this...
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