Rick Monday was not just the first draft pick in Athletics history, but major league history as well.
The Kansas City Era was not a good time in Athletics history. The franchise was essentially a farm team for the Yankees back then, never finishing above .500 at any point in their 13 years in the midwest. The A’s finished last five times in that span, with a 73-81 record in 1958 their high water mark.
One of those years came in 1964, when the A’s finished with a 57-105 record. Their reward for that ineptitude? The first overall selection in the first ever MLB Draft. It was a new concept, an idea that, eventually, the playing field could be evened out, allowing those teams at the bottom to potentially get the best young talent.
With that selection, the A’s drafted Rick Monday, an outfielder from Arizona State University. He was the College Player of the Year and a Western Athletic Conference All Star, leading a team that also had future major leaguers Sal Bando and Duffy Dyer on it as well to victory in the College World Series.
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Monday reached the majors in short order, debuting in 1966 after just 199 games in the minors. Following his 17 game trial that season, he was inserted as the A’s primary center fielder the following year. Monday was an All Star in 1968, a part of a homegrown core that began to build the franchise back to contention.
While he was a part of their playoff team in 1971, he would never taste World Series glory in Oakland. Monday was sent to the Cubs for Ken Holtzman, who would go on to be an All Star in his first two seasons with the A’s. Overall, Monday produced a .263/.359/.422 batting line, worth an OPS+ of 121, while hitting 84 doubles and 62 homers and stealing 53 bases in his six years with the franchise.
Monday would eventually receive fame outside of Oakland. He became infamous in Montreal, belting the game winning homer of Expos ace Steve Rogers to put the Dodgers in the World Series in 1981. And we have all seen the iconic clip of Monday snatching the American flag from protesters who were looking to set it ablaze in the outfield, running off with the flag trailing behind him.
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Rick Monday was not just the first selection in Athletics history, but the first overall pick in very first MLB Draft. As far as top picks go, he was a solid choice.