On April 25, 1976, on a hazy Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs were playing the final game of a meaningless early-season series at Dodger Stadium when, quite suddenly, one person and then another ran onto the field. It was the bottom of the fourth inning, and Ted Sizemore was at bat.
Cubs centerfielder Rick Monday had experience dealing with streakers, drunks, and other intruders in the outfield, but he sensed something was different and otherwise awry. The pair just gave off “a vibe,” he said.
One was carrying an American flag, a not-unfamiliar sight during the bicentennial year, which he unfurled in shallow left-center like a picnic blanket. Lighter fluid fumes wafted into the air. A match was struck. “It looks like he’s going to burn a flag!” Vin Scully cried out from the broadcast booth.
Monday, who’d served in the Marine Corps Reserve for six years, didn’t hesitate. He charged the pair, grabbed the cloth with his right hand, and kept running. The sodden flag, unlit, was preserved. One of the would-be flag immolators hurled a can of lighter fluid at Monday, but he was beyond its range. As Monday handed the flag off to Dodgers pitcher Doug Rau, Tommy Lasorda raced over from the third-base coach’s box and screamed curses at the would-be flag-burners.