Twenty-five years. It’s been 25 years since Lee Elia lost his mind in the manager’s office at Wrigley Field and unleashed one of the most profane, vile, hilarious and entertaining rants of all time. A rant so infamous that when Jay Johnstone published it word-for-word in his autobiography, it got the book banned.
So what set Lee Constantine Elia off on April 29, 1983? The Cubs had just dropped another one-run game, at home, to the Los Angeles Dodgers. This was back in the days when the home clubhouse was located down the left field line. The Cubs couldn’t just skulk down the tunnel from the dugout, they had to walk across the field.
Some fully kreusened fans, obviously livid over watching their hapless Cubs fall to 5-14 on the season threw some beer cups at Larry Bowa and Keith Moreland, and booed the team as they trudged down the foul line.
Basically, it was a scene everybody’d seen 1,000 times from the mid ’70s until that time. But this time, Lee had seen enough.
It’s ironic, really. The Cubs had a host of nondescript managers in those years. Milquetoast duds like Preston Gomez, Joey Amalfitano, Gene Michael, and even Jim Frey. Frey’s best remembered for winning the division in 1984 and in not having the balls to pitch Rick Sutcliffe in game four of the NLCS. He was a mope, too.
Not Lee. He was Dallas Green’s hand picked guy. Lee was gonna fire everybody up, hold people accountable and turn things around. Most importantly to Dallas, Lee was a Phillie. Hell, the whole team was Phillies back then. Even when Dallas had to fire Lee, he hired a guy with Philadelphia connections. Frey’s the only manager in the history of the world to lose a World Series to the Phillies.
This rant, the famous four minutes of f-bombs (and worse) is the only reason Lee is remembered by Cubs fans. Without it, he’d have been Whitey Lockman…or worse, Jim Essian. (Sorry, Kerm.)
In fact, this rant hasn’t been forgotten. Elia had been one of Lou Piniella’s most trusted coaches for years before Lou came to the Cubs. Lee didn’t come with. The Tribune Company didn’t tell Lou he couldn’t hire him, but they acted like a cat had taken a big dump in the middle of the room when Lou suggested it. So Lee is an assistant to the general manager in Seattle, where another longtime Lou disciple, John McLaren, is the manager.
But now, on to the rant. It’s a beautiful thing, really. All of us have done something like this in our lives. Almost none of us have had a microphone in our face when we did it. Most of us didn’t do it at work, either. But we’ve all had our moments where we just snap and somebody’s gonna get it. The dog is going to hear words he never knew existed, maybe the lawn mower that just broke is going to think you just turned into a Marine drill sergeant. Whatever the case, we adore the Lee Elia rant because we can identify with it.
He was just standing up for his guys. Isn’t that what a manager is supposed to do?
And what a rant it was. What strikes you upon repeated listenings isn’t the numerous, glorious ways he uses the f-word, it’s some of the other words he uses. Lee’s not a dumb man. He uses words, correctly, mind you, like multi-fold and multitude. He also makes a pretty good case. Back before the world changed in 1984, Cubs games were pretty much attended by the same 3,000 degenerates every day. These were the days when if Mensa wanted to start a chapter at Wrigley, Ronnie Woo Woo might not have been president but he’d have at least been the secretary.
So when Lee says:
“They’re really, really behind you around here… my f**kin’ ass. What the f**k am I supposed to do, go out there and let my f**kin’ players get destroyed every day and be quiet about it? For the f**kin’ nickel-dime people who turn up? The motherf**kers don’t even work. That’s why they’re out at the f**kin’ game. They oughta go out and get a f**kin’ job and find out what it’s like to go out and earn a f**kin’ living. Eighty-five percent of the f**ckin’ world is working. The other fifteen percent come out here. A f**kin’ playground for the c**ksuckers.
So here it is, in all it’s unabridged classic-ness. The unbleeped, full-length Lee Elia rant from 25 years ago today.
And, if you want the rant with the bleeps in it, where you can fill in your own expletives in your mind, the Chicago Tribune has it right here.