Cubs’ Lee Elia’s Rant Remembered, 28 Years Later
CHICAGO (CBS) — Friday marks the 28th anniversary of an obscenity-laden rant by then-Cubs manager Lee Elia, after misbehaving fans drove him to his breaking point.
On April 29, 1983, the Cubs had just lost a game to the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3. A wild pitch by the Cubs’ Lee Smith gave the Dodgers their winning run, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recalled.
Listen to a censored version of the rant here.
As the book Entangled in Ivy recalls, after the game, fans poured beer on the Cubs’ Keith Moreland, Larry Bowa and Ron Cey as they walked back to the left-field clubhouse. Elia was furious, and did not mince words in expressing himself.
“I’ll tell you one f***ing thing. I hope we get f***ing hotter than s**t, just to stuff them 3,000 f***ing people that show up every f***ing day,” he said. “Because if they’re real Chicago f***ing fans, they can kiss my f***ing a** right downtown and print it!” he said. “They’re really, really behind you around here – my f***ing a**.”
The f-bombs and other curse words continued, as Elia defended the 5-14 Cubs and derided the way fans had treated them, whom he characterized as “f***ing nickel-dime people” who should “go out and get a f***ing job” instead of coming to Cubs games.
As Entangled in Ivy recalls, most of the reporters at the game weren’t there to hear Elia’s rant. They had gone off to the Dodgers’ clubhouse to interview former Buffalo Grove High School star Mike Marshall, who was back in the Chicago area for his first game as a pro.
The only ones present for Elia’s rant were Robert Markus of the Chicago Tribune, Joel Bierig of the Chicago Sun-Times, Don Friske of the Daily Herald, and The Score’s Les Grobstein, who at the time was with WLS-890 AM.
Grobstein captured the only audio recording of the rant, which has been legendary ever since.
Elia was fired in August 1983 for reasons unrelated to the tape, and directly related to the team’s continued poor performance. Charlie Fox took Elia’s place for the rest of the season, and he in turn was replaced in 1984 by Jim Frey, who led the Cubs to the National League Eastern Division championship for the first time in 38 years.
Elia returned to Major League Baseball as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1987. After being fired by the Phillies in 1988, Elia coached Phillies minor league teams, then served in coaching posts with the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners.
He now works for the Atlanta Braves as a special assistant to manager Frank Wren.