Monday, Monday


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.


Of all the many seasons I’ve been a Cubs fan, 1984 ranks as my favorite one. The year 1984, all by itself, was an important year in my life. It was the year that I learned how to drive a car and, when my birthday came around, I got my license to drive. And whoever you are, life changes in a big way once that happens.

1984 was also when I got my first “real” job, as a grocery bagger in a local supermarket. I kept the job throughout high school, mostly because I was only scheduled to work on the weekends, so as not to interfere with my studies. I settled into a “study during the week, work and go carousing on the weekend, and then start all over again on Monday” cycle that I wouldn’t break out of for many years afterward.

And 1984 also had some great music. Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA and Prince’s Purple Rain were probably the best 1-2 album punch of my lifetime. The phrase “I want my MTV” had relevance because it hadn’t yet come to the local cable provider, but music videos like “What’s Love Got to Do with it” and “Missing You” were showing that the genre had lots of possibilities. Give me any song from 1984 on the radio over any of the junk that gets played on “hit radio” today.

And against this backdrop of change and possibility, the Cubs decided to start winning. There was the “Daily Double” of Bob Dernier and Ryne Sandberg at the top of the batting order, along with Harry Caray, who gave them their name and gushed about baseball in a way that I han’t seen before. There was Gary ‘Sarge” Matthews in left field, Ron “Penguin” Cey at third Base, and Leon “Bull” Durham at first base. There were no lights anywhere to be seen at Wrigley Field, Rick Sutcliffe was unbeatable on the mound, and the Cubs had a leggy “ballgirl” named Marla Collins. The 1984 Cubs were a rocking good time, all summer long. It was as good a summer as I’ve ever had in my life.

The Cubs wrapped up their first division title in Pittsburgh, with Rick Sutcliffe going the distance. So one itch had been scratched, but a bigger prize lay over the horizon. And it seemed inevitable after the Cubs won the first two playoff games at Wrigley Field. Sutcliffe–the pitcher!–even went deep in the Cubs’ first playoff win. He was nearly superhuman by that point.

And then the team went out west. And Steve Garvey, who is the easily most reviled player I can think of for Cubs fans my age, hit a home run off of Lee Smith. He circled the bases with his fist raised in the air, and burned his way into my baseball memories. I wish I could evict him from the place that he occupies, but I can’t do it. Nothing better has come along in the deades since then.

But Garvey’s home run only sent the series to Game five. And that’s where Rick Sutcliffe ran out of gas. That’s where Leon Durham turned into Bill Buckner, two years before Bill Buckner did. and that’s where the good times came to a crashing halt. I said it was too good to be true, and it turned out that it was.

Steve Garvey, having been unsuccessful in his bid to buy the Dodgers franchise, now wants to buy the Padres instead. I’m hopeful he doesn’t succeed in this, but I think that he might just do it. Either way, the image of him running the bases, with a fist raised in triumph, will linger until further notice. I want to believe that this can be exorcised by making it to the World Series some day, but until then it looks like I’m stuck with it. I can certainly tell you that it’s no way to live.

NOTE:   The styling of the title for this post is an hommage to Prince’s D/M/S/R from his 1999 album.