Lee Elia’s Rant: 30 Bleepin’ Years Later
WARNING: ADULT CONTENT BELOW (SERIOUSLY)
For those who are not familiar with the history of Chicago baseball it will likely come as a surprise to learn that there was a time when Wrigley Field was not so cool, fun, and controversial.
Thirty years ago Wrigley was considered by most to be a baseball cemetery. The Cubs, eternally bad, did not draw big crowds and the only people on the rooftops across the street were either two guys with a six-pack or someone running from the police.
It was this Cubs world which gave birth to one of the greatest rants in sports history, a profane diatribe on baseball and the human condition that would make David Mamet proud and Quentin Tarantino blush.
It was Friday, April 29, 1983 and the Cubs fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-3, at Wrigley, in a matinee of course, in front of 9, 391 fans, one day after drawing only 3,383 in a loss to the Padres.
After the game Cubs manager Lee Elia took some ridicule from some of the denizens of the “Friendly Confines” who were undoubtedly as inebriated as they were frustrated by the North Siders’ 5-14 start. Elia, in his second, and last, year as Cubs skipper (he would be fired before season’s end) spoke to reporters afterwards.
The following is the G-Rated transcript of the greatest X-Rated outburst of all time.
“F— those f—–‘ fans who come out here and say they’re Cub fans that are supposed to be behind you rippin’ every f—–‘ thing you do. I’ll tell you one f—–‘ thing, I hope we get f—–‘ hotter than s—, just to stuff it up them 3,000 f—-‘ people that show up every f—–‘ day, because if they’re the real Chicago f—–‘ fans, they can kiss my f—-‘ a– right downtown and PRINT IT!
“They’re really, really behind you around here… my f—–‘ a–! What the f— am I supposed to do, go out there and let my f—-‘ players get destroyed every day and be quiet about it? For the f—–‘ nickel-dime people that show up? The m———–s don’t even work! That’s why they’re out at the f—–‘ game. They oughtta go out and get a f—–‘ job and find out what it’s like to go out and earn a f—–‘ living. Eighty-five percent of the f—–‘ world is working. The other fifteen percent come out here! A f—–‘ playground for the c———s. Rip them m———–s! Rip them f—–s’ c——–s like the f—–‘ players! We got guys bustin’ their f——‘ ass, and them f—–‘ people boo. And that’s the Cubs? My f—-n’ a–! They talk about the great f—-n’ support the players get around here. I haven’t seen it this f—–n’ year. The name of the game is hit the ball, catch the ball and get the f—–n’ job done. Right now we have more losses than we have wins. The f—-n’ changes that have happened in the Cubs organization are multiple.
“Alright, they don’t show because we’re 5 and 14… and unfortunately, that’s the criteria of them dumb 15 m———-n’ percent that come out to day baseball! The other 85 percent are earning a living. It’ll take more than a 5 and 13 or 5 and 14 to destroy the makeup of this club. I guarantee you that. There’s some f—–‘ pros out there that wanna f—–n’ play this game. But you’re stuck in a f—–‘ stigma of the f—–‘ Dodgers and the Phillies and the Cardinals and all that cheap s—! All those m———-n’ editorials about Cey and f—–n’ and the Phillie-itis and all that s—. It’s sickening! It’s unbelievable. It really is. It’s a disheartening f—–‘ situation that we’re in right now. 5-14 doesn’t negate all that work. Anybody who was associated with the Cub organization four or five years ago that came back and sees the multitude of progress that’s been made will understand that if they’re baseball people, that 5 and 14 doesn’t negate all that work. We got 143 f—–‘ games left.
“What I’m tryin’ to say is don’t rip them f—–‘ guys out there. Rip me! If you wanna rip somebody, rip my f—–‘ a–! But don’t rip them f—–‘ guys ’cause they’re givin’ everything they can give. And once we hit that f—–n’ groove, it’ll flow and it will flow the talent’s there. I don’t know how to make it any clearer to you. I’m frustrated, I’ll guarantee it I’m frustrated. It would be different if I walked in this room every day at 8:30 and saw a bunch of guys who don’t give a s—. They give a s—! And it’s a tough National League East. It’s a tough National League period.”
Elia would go 54-69 with the Cubs that 1983 season before being fired in August. Charlie Fox took over and the Cubs finished 71-91.
Elia’s rant, even three decades later, is still shocking, hilarious, embarrassing and a bit telling. The Cubs were terrible in ’83, their sixth straight losing season after going .500 in 1977, and hadn’t had a winning season since 1972. Elia went nuts, got fired, and the Cubs sat home while the White Sox became the toast of Chicago, winning the AL West.
The next year the Cubs brought in Jim Frey as manager and won the NL East, the team’s first postseason appearance since 1945 and Wrigley Field went from being a beloved but, truthfully, not very well liked or attended old ballpark, into a “Field of Dreams” fueled as well by a sudden shift in the real estate market on Chicago’s North Side and the marketing mistake of the White Sox having let Harry Caray skip to the North Side.
Is the rest f—–n’ history? Sort of. Ever since that ’84 season Wrigley has turned into a gold mine and while the Cubs still, basically, stink, they surpassed the Sox in popularity by 1985 and have never looked back.
Maybe it was all fueled by a good baseball man who had a really, really bad, but really, really honest, day.
Elia went on to manage the Phillies for two seasons, one was a winner, one wasn’t, and he never reached the playoffs.
Maybe his fortune would have been different if his playing career had been better. Elia played 95 career games as an infielder — 80 with the White Sox in 1966 and 15 in 1968 with, yes, the Cubs.
His career batting average was f—-n’ .203.