Monday, Monday

MONDAY_FLAG

After eight years in the broadcast booth for the Chicago Cubs, Bob Brenly has announced that he will not be returning in 2013. I liked Bob Brenly, but life is about change and he decided to move on. That’s fine, but it has raised the inevitable question of who will replace him. And even though I haven’t heard this name mentioned, I think I know the perfect candidate: Robert James Monday, Jr., better known as Rick Monday.

There are other names floating about, including Rick Sutcliffe, Gary Matthews, and Mark grace. Those are all ex-Cubs players, and I think that the importance of that cannot be overstated. Using Ron Santo, and now Keith Moreland, as exemplars from the radio booth for WGN, it’s clear to me that a name from Cubs’ past is important. Monday fits this bill, although Cubs fans under 40 won’t think of him as a Cub.

Monday’s was a name that Jack Brickhouse once called out, and that’s important, too. I’ve written about Jack Brickhouse before, and he embodied the Wrigley family era of ownership of the Cubs. The Tribune Company bought the team in the early 1980s, and they replaced Brickhouse with Harry Caray. I loved Harry as much as anyone, but Brickhouse and the players from that pre-Tribune era like Monday, Rick Reuschel, Jose Cardenal, and Bruce Sutter will always hold a special place in my heart.

So maybe you aren’t sold on the “link to the past” argument. Fair enough, then let’s look at the issue of experience. Rick Monday started working in the broadcast booth in 1985, for the Los Angeles Dodgers. By comparison, Rick Sutcliffe and Gary Matthews were still playing in that season, and Mark Grace was drafted by the Cubs that year out of San Diego State. If you’re the type of person who values on-the-job experience, as I do, then Monday certainly has that to offer.

But maybe Monday’s experience doesn’t convince you, either. Let’s turn it around and say he’s an older guy who the modern fan probably won’t relate to. OK. Your standards are obviously different from mine, but there’s still one more item on Monday’s  resume that, in my mind, is the trump card that nobody else can beat.

If you aren’t aware of what Rick Monday did in Dodger Stadium, while wearing a Cubs uniform in April of 1976, here’s a link to something I wrote about that incident. In a nutshell, two men ran onto the field in Dodger Stadium during a Cubs-Dodgers game, and attempted to set fire to an American Flag in the outfield grass. Monday smelled the lighter fluid, realized what was going on, and ran over to snatch the flag away from the men. He still has that flag, and it crystallized, in the year of America’s bicentennial, the connection that exists between baseball and the U.S. of A.

Monday was a veteran of the Marine Corps reserves during the Vietnam era, and it was the memory of this service that set him into motion that day in the Dodger Stadium outfield. For a nation that’s now been at war for over a decade, and one that thanks our service members at every juncture for the sacrifices they’ve made, Monday means a lot to them. And he means a lot to anyone who would have been horrified to learn that an American flag was burned in the outfield of a baseball stadium.

Monday’s hero status, together with his experience as a broadcaster and his status as a former Cubs player, are more than enough to warrant his hiring for the Cubs as their color analyst, for as long as he wants the job. He’ll be 67 this season, and could conceivably do the job for several years before he retires from the booth. I, for one, would like to see his name enter the conversation, to find out if he’s interested in the job on any level. It’s an opportunity that I hope this franchise will understand and appreciate.

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#Cubs #DoubleTriple is now just 35 losses away

The Cubs were blown out in St. Louis again today, bringing the historic and unprecedented #DoubleTriple ever closer to becoming a reality. And losing to the Cardinals tomorrow will put the Cubs on pace, percentage-wise, to make this happen. And so we forge ahead deeper into the 1970s. For an explanation of why I’m doing this, click here.

1976 Montreal Expos

Expansion team: No

Overall record: 55-107

# of win streaks of 3 games or more: Five

Manager(s): Karl Kuehl, Charlie Fox

Hall of Famers on roster: Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, and Larry Doby (as coach)

100 loss seasons since: 2008; 2009 (both as the Washington Nationals)

Pennant wins since: None

In 1976, baseball changed forever. It’s always changing and evolving to some degree, but two pitchers–Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally–had played the 1975 season without a contract, and afterwards they went to an arbitrator and claimed that they were not beholden to the long-standing reserve clause, which bound a player to one team for as long as that team wanted. The arbitrator agreed with them, and Messersmith became baseball’s first millionaire, signing for three years with the Atlanta Braves. It’s just one more sign of how different things are now in baseball–and in all of professional sports–than what they were back then.

The Montreal Expos, in their final year of playing in Jarry Park, were the only team to hit the magic number in losses in 1976. Since it was the summer of Bruce Jenner, Nadia Comaneci, and the other Summer Olympians in Montreal, I don’t think the locals noticed it very much. But after the season was over, Les Expos moved into Olympic Stadium, which eventually ruined Andre Dawson’s knees. And, for all of the problems they had with the ballpark and with lousy attendance toward the end of their time in Montreal, they never again lost 100 games in Montreal. So that’s a good thing, right?

Although it has nothing to do with 100 losses, the most enduring image of baseball in 1976 was Rick Monday saving the American flag in the outfield of Dodger Stadium on April 25. A man and his son ran onto the field, and were intending to burn the flag as an act of protest. But they fumbled with their matches and lighter fluid, and in the meantime Monday ran over and snatched the flag away from them. The picture of the event above has been colorized, but the event rightly made Monday a hero. As much as I pound on the Cubs sometimes, I was definitely proud of my team at that moment. And with the Bicentennial just two months away, all Americans were inspired by Monday’s action. Has anything ever gone together so well as America and baseball?