Thirty-two years ago today, one of baseball’s greatest moments took place when the ball wasn’t even in play. McQ reminds us of Rick Monday’s courageous rescue of the American flag at Dodger Stadium in 1976, which we can all see again through the magic of YouTube:

I’ve written about this before at Captain’s Quarters, but the context bears repeating. In 1976, a sense of ennui had gripped the nation. In a year-long bicentennial celebration, many wondered if the economic stagnation that had lasted all decade meant that America’s best years were in the rear-view mirror. The commercialized bicentennial festivities felt forced and false. It seemed that pride in our country had dissipated into cynicism and retreat.

The unprompted, extemporaneous response to Monday’s heroics is the often untold story of that day. Over 40,000 baseball fans saw Monday risk his career by grabbing what could easily have been a fireball to rescue the American flag from a couple of asshats, and suddenly it recalled the real patriotism and passion for America that had been missing in 1976. At first in isolated pockets but soon sweeping around the stands like The Wave would later do, Americans stood up and sang “God Bless America” — not prompted by the stadium organist but fueled by love of country.

For my money, it’s the single best moment in sports. God bless Rick Monday, and God bless America.