4/29 Lee Elia
Lee Elia was picked by Dallas Green to manage the Cubs in 1982, and most likely would’ve been the skipper in ’84 if not for some poorly chosen words following a game 30 years ago today. Monday marks the 30-year anniversary of Elia’s tirade after a Cubs loss to the Dodgers (do a search and you’ll find it, just be prepared for the profanities). Here’s his explanation of what happened from my book, “Banks to Sandberg to Grace.” He wanted to talk about it and give his explanation. Just imagine how different it would be today with Twitter and social media and cameras everywhere:
“We were coming off the field, and in those days we had to go down the left field line to get in the locker room, which made it even tougher at times. As we’re walking down the field, Keith Moreland, our right field-catcher kind of guy, got into an argument with a fan, and the next thing I know, Redhead’s in the stands having an altercation. So, we had to pull him off this guy, and this is in a Major League Baseball game. We walked down a little farther after we pulled him off, and Bowa was by the tarp in the bullpen and somebody hit him in the back with something. He goes over the tarp and they’re physically hitting each other. So, me and Vukovich, my dugout coach, we go pull him off.
“So now we’d had these two things on top of the wild pitch by Lee Smith [that let the winning run score] and I go into the clubhouse and had a quick five-minute thing with the club. I told them, ‘Hey, look, we got off slow but we have a bunch of people here and it’s a long season.’ Then I walked into my office and it was packed with the mighty Dodger entourage [of media] so to speak.
“They were asking me questions, and they were not the kind of questions you should ask me after a tough loss. … I asked them, ‘Please, let’s talk about the game.’ It was a tough loss and I’m still hot about going into the stands, and for some reason for that one moment — I never dreamed it would leave the locker room. Some fellow had a little tape recorder and he ran out of the locker room, and next thing I know it’s on the radio, and now it’s part of Chicago trivia. Who’s the manager who said this and that?
“I did say some things I really feel bad about. I think it’s changed me personally. It kind of hurt me because I love the players and I didn’ tthink there was any better place in the world to be than Chicago. You’d be a damn fool not to think they’re the greatest fans in the world. They’ve suffered through defeat and still love the players. But when I made my comments about the fans, I honest to God was directing them at those people who went after Moreland and Bowa. I didn’t mean the Chicago people in general. That was something I often hoped they would always understand, but that was unfortunate.”
– Carrie Muskat