Baseball History: Rick Monday, An American Hero

rick monday 1967 cropThis year marks the 50th anniversary of the initial Major League Baseball free agent draft.

The first draft in 1965 had 814 players selected, according The Sporting News Baseball Guide from a year later.

Three members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame were selected. Johnny Bench was chosen in the second round by the Cincinnati Reds, while Nolan Ryan was picked up by the New York Mets in the 12th.

Although he didn’t sign a contract, Tom Seaver was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 10th round. Seaver would eventually sign with the New York Mets.

One of the intriguing things about drafting players is that it ultimately is a guessing game. More often than not it is an educated guess, but only in hindsight does anyone know if a team got it right.

The Kansas City Athletics were in existence for 13 years from 1954-1967. The A’s never really succeeded, except maybe supplying the New York Yankees with players, but that is a story for another time.

In the 1965 draft, the A’s got things right. They took 10 players who made it to the major leagues. Among them were Sal Bando and Gene Tenace, who were members of the three World Series winners in Oakland from 1972-1974.

Because they were last in the American League in 1964, the A’s started with the very first pick, which they have not had since. A 19-year old from Arizona State University named Rick Monday was the choice.

Monday made it to the big leagues by 1966 when he appeared in 17 games. He became the starting centerfielder the next season and played with the A’s until 1971. An all-star in 1968, Monday was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Ken Holtzman prior to the 1972 season.

rick monday 1976Playing in Chicago from 1972-1976, Monday was eventually sent to the Dodgers before the 1977 season in a swap that included Bill Buckner. He played in the World Series with the Dodgers in 1977 and 1978 before winning the championship in 1981. He retired in 1984.

A home run during the 1981 National League Championship Series was a shining moment for the lefty swinger. His long ball off Montreal’s Steve Rogers in the fifth contest of the series gave the Dodgers a 2-1 win as they won the NL flag.

An incident involving a flag is how many people remember Monday. A pair of protesters were attempting to set an American flag on fire in the outfield during a game in Dodger Stadium on April 25, 1976. Monday, then with the Cubs, raced to the flag and saved it.

Monday proved in that moment, how the A‘s really made a great choice for their first selection in 1965.

The Rookie Card: Monday’s rookie card also features, Tony Pierce. Pierce was signed as a free agent in 1964. He eventually played in Kansas City (1967) and in Oakland (1968). He appeared in 66 games posting a 4-6 record with eight saves and a 3.25 ERA. He was released by the A’s early in 1970.

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