Elia has new rant for Cubs

In this Aug. 17, 1982 photo, umpires try to calm Chicago Cubs manager Lee Elia, center, after a disputed call during a Cubs-Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game in Chicago. Elia is now donating to Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities. Jon Swart, The Associated Press

AP

In this Aug. 17, 1982 photo, umpires try to calm Chicago Cubs manager Lee Elia, center, after a disputed call during a Cubs-Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game in Chicago. Elia is now donating to Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities. Jon Swart, The Associated Press

CHICAGO – Lee Elia has a new message for Chicago Cubs’ fans.

On the eve of the 25th anniversary of his legendary postgame meltdown, Elia let loose in Chicago again Monday. Only this time, the former Cubs manager is trying to make amends and raise money for the Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities. Working with a local memorabilia company, he’s selling an autographed baseball with the order “print it!” in a case with an audio chip that plays his latest rant.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” Elia begins. “It’s time the Cubs get hotter than hell this season and stuff it up the rest of the baseball world. The 40,000 fans who fill the ballpark everyday and work hard for a living are no nickel dimers! They deserve a championship. They’re the real Chicago Cub fans. And PRINT IT!”

Elia announced the project during a news conference at Harry Caray’s Restaurant on Monday, and he plans to attend the Cubs’ game against Milwaukee on Tuesday, exactly 25 years after he let loose after a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lee Smith’s wild pitch in the eighth inning allowed the go-ahead run to score, and fans at Wrigley Field threw garbage at Keith Moreland and Larry Bowa as they made their way from the dugout to the clubhouse afterward. Elia’s frustration spilled out in a 4 1/2-minute tirade that included 50 profanities.

“About 85 percent of the f– world is working. The other 15 come out here,” he barked after that game.

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    Elia’s new message is a riff on this portion of his original rant:

    “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– ass right downtown and – PRINT IT!”

    Elia said the company wanted to use the original recording but he nixed that, saying, “I couldn’t picture some 6-year-old kid running around the house hitting that button.”

    The rant went down in Cubs lore, but it almost cost Elia his job that day. He got fired later in the season and tried to distance himself from the diatribe over the years. He went about two decades without listening to it from start to finish until he found a link on the Chicago Sun-Times’ Web site the other morning.

    “My wife and I are sitting there having coffee, and I hit that thing and there it goes,” said Elia, now 70 and a special adviser to Seattle Mariners manager John McLaren. “I looked at her, and honest to God, I just roared. I really did. I don’t know why. We looked at each other and we just laughed like crazy. I said, ‘Look at this. Where did I come up with this stuff?'”

    Elia said he had forgotten most of it, except “the 85 percent statement, because everybody kept saying, ‘Where did you come up with that? You have trouble breaking a dollar.'”

    He can laugh about it now, but it was a sore spot for a long time. A few years later, he even called a lawyer after his daughter came home from school in tears because someone read it to her.

    “I sat in his office for 15 minutes and he said, ‘Good luck, buddy. You said print it. If you don’t say print it, we’ve got a chance,'” Elia said. “That was probably the zenith of the hurt.”

    Elia held a grudge against Les Grobstein, the Chicago radio reporter who caught the diatribe, until recently when former Cubs public relations director Bob Ibach convinced him the anger was misguided.

    But on Monday, they shared a few laughs. Grobstein showed Elia the microphone that caught the tirade, one he still uses but might sell for the charity.

    Elia got involved because he lost his father to prostate cancer and beat it, himself. And, he wanted to set the record straight. He and Ibach started talking about it during spring training, and Elia decided to go ahead with the project after the Mariners visited the Cubs for an exhibition game in Mesa, Ariz.