Tuesday, December 20, 2011

#295 - Rick Monday

Bummer! I missed posting Rick Monday's card on a Monday by a day. But I'm generally behind so I didn't want to slow my postings down any more. Rick is smiling broadly at Candlestick in what was arguably the best season of his career to date in '73. A power-hitting center fielder who would bat at the top of the Chicago order, he recorded highs until then in runs - 93 - and homers, both of which he would surpass in '76. Rick got there in time to solidify the outfield with Jose Cardenal, Billy Williams, and Jerry Morales; unfortunately though, that time coincided with the vaunted infield shutting down and it would be a while before he would again see any post-season action with a whole other team.

Rick Monday was born in Arkansas and when he was a year old moved to California. He grew up a local multi-sport star and when he came out of high school was being chased by a bunch of teams. He opted for Bobby Winkle's pitch and went to Arizona State instead in '63. After sitting out his freshman year he played summer ball for the Goldpanners in Alaska with Tom Seaver, Graig Nettles, and Gary Sutherland. Returning to ASU he won College Player of the Year with a .362 average and led the team to the CWS title (though Sal Bando was the tournament MVP). He was then drafted and signed as the first guy ever by Kansas City in '65 for $104,000. He finished up the year in A ball where he poked 13 homers and 44 RBI's. In '66 he moved up to Double A and again showed pretty good power with 23 homers and 72 RBI's. He also posted a .384 OBA and struck out 143 times. Big K totals would be a feature of his career. After a couple games up top that summer he returned in '67 to fill the starting spot in center field. While his rookie numbers were nothing special, his homer and RBI totals led the team. He also made that year's Topps Rookie All-Star Team. The next year he was one of the few AL guys to pull his average up and he enjoyed his first All-Star selection, but the arrival of fellow ASU stars Bando and Reggie pushed him all over the lineup so his power numbers came in a bit. As the A's improved markedly with the addition of other players, Rick's lineup movement would be characteristic of his stay in Oakland. After a couple seasons under John McNamara, the team was led by Al Dark in '71. Dark began platooning Rick with Angel Magual, which meant that Monday wasn't one of his manager's biggest fans. After playing only one game in the AL playoffs that year Rick was traded to the Cubs for fellow '65 All-American Ken Holtzman.

For the Cubs Monday would be a welcome addition. Always a hustler who played a very good center field, he enjoyed lineup stability he never had in Oakland, always appearing near or at the top of the order. His walk to K ratio improved and his numbers became more consistent. In '74 he hit .294 as the rest of his numbers nearly matched '73's. In '75 he maxed out his doubles with 29 and nearly had as many walks as strikeouts. In '76 he finished third in NL homers and runs scored, with 32 and 107 respectively. That April he also raised his profile significantly when in LA he rescued an American flag from a couple of fans who jumped on the field and were about to burn it as an act of protest. After that season he was traded to the Dodgers with Mike Garman for Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus.

Monday kicked off his LA career as the primary guy in center although his at bats came way in since he shared time there with Reggie Smith and Glenn Burke. His homer totals more than halved but that turned out to be OK since there was plenty of power in the lineup. That year he also returned to the post-season for the first time since '71. The next year he split center with Billy North, who ironically more-or-less replaced him in Oakland. Rick's offensive numbers improved that season and in '79 he was off to a nice start when he injured his ankle and missed pretty much the rest of the season. By the time he returned in '80 Rudy Law and then Ken Landreaux - yet another ASU guy - had taken over in center and Rick would be a reserve guy. But his '80 numbers were pretty good and in '81 he was a super-sub, hitting .315 with 11 homers and 25 RBI's in only 130 at bats. The icing on the cake that year was when he hit a playoff-winning homer against Steve Rogers to put LA in The Series. After another clutch year in '82 - 42 RBI's in 210 at bats, Rick then played out his career in LA until released in June of '84. He hit .264 lifetime with 241 homers, 775 RBI's, and a .361 OBA. In the post-season he hit .210 in 30 games.

Immediately after playing Monday moved into broadcasting, hosting a local pre-game show for the Dodgers beginning in '85 as well as a play-by-play gig on cable. He also did some newscasting and called the '88 CWS. From '89 to '92 he called Padres games on television. He returned to LA in '93 and since then has done both radio and TV work as both the color and the play-by-play guy.

Rick has some pretty good star bullets. Defensively he also led the NL in fielding in '72 and ranks high in lifetime stats in center: he is in the top 75 in assists and double plays and in the top 50 in putouts. He also played in the game in '76 in which Mike Schmidt hit four out so he's been on both sides of that one. He may be the first guy in this set who actually ended up doing for a living what his cartoon indicated.

Big trades are big helps here:

1. Monday and Fergie Jenkins '72 to '73 Cubs;
2. Jenkins and Steve Foucault '74 to '75 Rangers.

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