Rick Monday is a man of many baseball faces with a long, storied ride through our national pastime.
Consider where he’s been …
- Born in Arkansas, Monday spent his prep career in Southern California.
- After spurning a $20,000 bonus from Tommy Lasorda to sign with the Dodgers out of high school, Monday became the most celebrated college player in the nation while at Arizona State University.
- In 1965, the Kansas City Athletics made Monday the first-ever pick in the first-ever MLB draft.
- After a six-year run with the A’s and another five years with the Cubs, Monday landed back “home” with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1971.
- At the peak of his career, in 1976, Monday became a hero for millions when he snatched Old Glory from the grip of would-be flag burners in the Dodger Stadium outfield.
- After he hung up his spikes in 1984, Monday embarked on a broadcasting career with the Dodgers that has taken him from TV to radio and back again.
Monday has always had a knack for ending up in the spotlight, it seems, and that’s thanks in no small part to his talents on the diamond — a career .264 hitter, Monday smacked 241 home runs, drove in 775, and collected more than 1600 hits in his 19-year MLB career.
Along the way, naturally, Monday accumulated his fair share of baseball card appearances, beginning with his 1965 Topps rookie card (shared with hurler Tony Pierce) and stretching all the way through the 1984 sets.
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By the time most kids of the 1970s and 1980s “found” Monday in their collections, he looked like a typical ballplayer — slender but not skinny or muscular, aging fine but nothing super-standout in his appearance.
Rollo back the clock to those 1960s cards, though, and you find a more striking image in many cases, one that often included flashes of blinding white teeth and arched, almost mischievous eyebrows.
And then, Topps issued their 1968 Game cards, meant to allow collectors to simulate playing a baseball game by drawing different dudes from a deck.
Monday made the lineup of 33, appearing on card #26, right between Gene Alley and Al Kaline.
It was undoubtedly an honor, and a nod to Monday’s rising profile after a rookie season (1967) that yielded 14 home runs and 58 RBI.
And, while most of the players in the set appeared with their caps, Monday showed up with nothing but his thick, gelled-up movie star coif that made it look like he was either gearing up for a role in the next Clint Eastwood movie or just coming off the set of Hollywood Squares.
Sure, the official explanation for the hatless young man is surely that the A’s moved from K.C. to Oakland in the offseason and no one was really sure what those new caps would look like.
But you have to think maybe … just maybe … Topps could see the studio light shining out there like a beacon in Monday’s future.
Hobby Holiday Hots
The same year Topps rolled out their game cards, they also continued on with their run of Bazooka boxes featuring cards of the sport’s biggest stars … like this one for sale on eBay: