Rick Monday: Oakland Athletics Center Fielder from 1968 to 1971
I was recently advised that Swingin’ A’s is going to start including a retro feature on Thursdays, featuring A’s players, teams, and accomplishments of the past. As the only one on the writing staff who can proudly say he’s followed the guys in Green and Gold since Day 1 (let alone been sucking air on this planet that long) I plan on taking advantage of the opportunity.
This week’s feature is Rick Monday, the first center fielder in Oakland A’s lore to patrol the mass green pasture of the then-new Oakland Coliseum.
Taken as the first overall selection by the A’s in the inaugural Major League First-Year Player Draft in 1965 out of Arizona State, where he played with eventual teammates Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando, owner Charlie Finley signed Monday with an unheard-of-at-the-time $100,000 bonus. Monday quickly established himself as one of the best players in the A’s line-up and one of the best all-around players in the league.
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His rookie season was in 1967, while the A’s were still in Kansas City. Playing in 124 games, Monday posted a .251 batting average with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs. Coming to Oakland, Monday was the first Oakland Athletics player to hit a home run at the newly-opened for baseball Coliseum, on Opening Night, April 17. It was a sixth inning shot off the Orioles Dave McNally. The home run would account for the A’s only run in their Oakland debut in front of 50,164.
In 1968, Monday, along with shortstop Bert Campaneris and John “Blue Moon” Odom, would be the A’s representatives to the AL All-Star team that year. Flanked by rookie Reggie Jackson in right field, and eventually Joe Rudi in left field, Monday was probably the lesser known of a fantastic A’s outfield. In the 1968 season, Monday improved his average to .274 in 148 games
In 1969, overshadowed by Reggie’s home run record pursuit and sidelined by a broken wrist courtesy of a Fritz Peterson inside pitch in August, Monday hit .271. However, he boosted his batting average to .290 in 1970, along with 10 home runs. In 1971, Monday’s average dropped to .245, and he saw limited action against some left-handed pitching, with manager Dick Williams‘s hopes pinned on rookie outfielder Angel Mangual. The A’s, under Williams, would take the AL West but be swept in the ALCS by the Orioles, as Monday appeared in only one game.
At the end of the 1971 season, with A’s phenom Vida Blue already threatening to hold out for the next season, Finley traded Monday to the Chicago Cubs for lefty Ken Holtzman, who would go on to be part of a incredible pitching staff that would lead the A’s to three straight World Championships. In his six A’s seasons, Monday hit .263 with 62 HRs in 639 games.
With the Cubs, Monday is best known for a heroic act in April 1976 in Los Angeles, stopping two fans who tried to burn the American Flag in the Dodger Stadium outfield. Monday would be traded to the Dodgers in 1977 and become an All-Star again in 1978. Monday played 19 big league seasons, hitting a combined .264 with 1,619 hits over his career. He currently is part of the Dodgers radio broadcast team, a position he’s had since 1989.