Rick Monday

Monday, the first player ever taken in the draft, had a long, solid career but had chronic back problems and never achieved at the level first expected of him.

After being picked in June 1965 by the A’s and signing for a $104,000 bonus, he became a semi-regular in 1967. For the A’s, Monday hit as high as .290 (1970) and as many as 18 HR (1971). His five strikeouts on April 19, 1970 tied the ML record for a nine-inning game.

After the 1971 season he was traded straight-up for Cub pitcher Ken Holtzman. Moving from the spacious Oakland Coliseum to cozy Wrigley Field, and playing more often, he increased his production: He hit 26 HR in 1973, 20 in 1974 while batting .294, and a career-high 32 in 1976. In 1976, probably his best year overall, the leadoff batter scored a career-high 107 runs, fifth in the NL. In a game on May 16, 1972, he homered in three consecutive at-bats.

Monday earned national notoriety with the Cubs in April 1976 when he dashed from his position in centerfield and snatched an American flag from a fan who was about to burn it. In January 1977 he went to the Dodgers in a five-player deal that sent Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus to Chicago. Monday had two more good seasons before a 1979 injury limited him to 12 games. Thereafter he was an extra outfielder and a not especially successful pinch hitter, but he was the hero of the 1981 LCS, hitting a two-out, ninth-inning two-run homer off Expos ace Steve Rogers to win the clincher 2-1.

A centerfielder until his injury, Monday was a good fielder with an accurate arm; he led NL outfielders in fielding in 1972 and twice led his league in outfield double plays. He hit 16 leadoff home runs lifetime. He hit into only 71 double plays in his career, an excellent average of one every 86.4 at-bats. He was the sixth-easiest player in history to strike out and ranks 16th in career strikeouts. He made up for it by walking fairly often, with a high of 92 walks in 1973, fifth in the NL that season.