CHICAGO — One of the most infamous moments in the long and storied history of the “Friendly Confines” happened 40 years ago on Saturday – and it all had to do with some unfriendly words for fans.
On April 29, 1983, Lee Elia — then-manager of the Chicago Cubs — unleashed a memorable tirade that was directed at the supporters of the team after a difficult loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a tough start to the season.
With 9,391 fans in attendance at the ballpark, the Cubs lost a two-run lead in the final innings of a 4-3 defeat to Los Angeles. As the team walked down the left field line to get to the clubhouse, which they had to do in those days at Wrigley Field, fans vented their frustrations verbally and, per reports from that day, threw a few beverages at players.
Perhaps that’s what set Elia off on a tirade for the ages when he met with a handful of reporters in the locker room minutes later. The late Les Grobstein, a longtime radio reporter and host in Chicago, captured what would become arguably the most memorable rant in the city’s professional sports history.
“I’ll tell you one (expletive) thing, I hope we get (expletive) hotter than (expletive), just to stuff it up them 3,000 (expletive) people that show up every (expletive) day,” is how Elia started, and it just kept rolling from there.
The manager spent the next three minutes verbally expressing his displeasure for fans, using copious amounts of profanity to express his deep frustrations with supporters. The manager then implored them to blame him for the team’s 5-14 start to the season and not the players, whom he felt were giving it all they had.
“What I’m trying to say is don’t rip them (expletive) guys out there, rip me,” said Elia. “If you want to rip somebody, rip my (expletive).”
The entire rant is available here. (Warning: Expletive Language)
Naturally, general manager Dallas Green wasn’t happy when he heard Grobstein’s recording of the rant. Elia was summoned back to the ballpark to apologize for his comments to prevent a termination and he was back in the dugout the next day as the Cubs beat the Dodgers, 7-2.
The manager didn’t last long with the Cubs, however, as he was fired later that season on Aug. 22, with the team well out of the National League Eastern division race. After the season, Jim Frey was hired to be his permanent replacement, and led the Cubs to the division title in 1984, the first playoff appearance for the franchise in 39 years.
Meanwhile, Elia’s rant continued to live on for years after his tenure with the team, with the rant getting new life thanks to YouTube. That’s allowed a new generation of fans to hear one of the most infamous postgame moments in the history of Chicago sports that lives on 40 years later.