Lee Elia's rant turns 40. What happened in the moments after the Cubs manager's tirade.

It began like any other postgame news conference.

Manager Lee Elia's Cubs had just lost 4-3 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 29, 1983, the winning run scoring on a wild pitch by future Hall of Famer Lee Smith.

After making their way down the left-field line to get to the manager's postage stamp of an office underneath the bleachers, the three local beat reporters began chatting with Elia about the Cubs' 5-14 start.

"He was as calm as can be," said Don Friske, who covered the Cubs for the Daily Herald from 1978 to the mid-'80s. "We were just having a conversation about, 'We've got to get out of this mess.'"

But tensions were boiling underneath. Tensions nobody - not even Elia himself - knew were about to be unleashed in what has to be considered the most famous profanity-laced rant in sports history.

Whether it was the Cubs' overall dismal play, a team meeting held just moments before to "air things out" or a fourth reporter showing up at the perfect moment, something sparked an absolutely epic tirade that included dozens of F-bombs and a few memorable lines that live on 40 years later.

That fourth reporter was WLS radio's Les Grobstein - or "the Grobber," as he was affectionately known. "Tough way to lose a ballgame," said Grobstein, who proceeded to put his microphone in Elia's direction.

Boom. Elia's wick had run out and the normally mild-mannered 45-year-old went nuclear.

"(Expletive) those (expletive) fans who come out here and say they're Cub fans that are supposed to be behind you, rippin' every (expletive) thing you do," Elia roared. "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, because if they're the real Chicago (expletive) fans, they can kiss my (expletive) (expletive) right downtown.


Friske couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"It was almost frightening. Seriously," said Friske, who graduated from Rolling Meadows HS in 1973 and the University of Illinois in 1977. "It was almost like he blacked out or something. He's nothing like that. I mean it was his second season, but working with him in spring training, he'd always answer questions, friendly as could be, happy, good humor.

"Something about just the way the team was starting and the pressure was building. He'd had enough."

And he was just getting warmed up. The diatribe, which went on for several minutes, includes some real classics, including:

• "They're really, really behind you around here - my (expletive) (expletive)!"

• "The (expletive expletive) don't even work. That's why they're out at the (expletive) game. ... Eighty-five percent of the (expletive) world is working. The other 15 percent come here."

•  • •

When Friske got back to the press box, he saw the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times reporters writing up their stories. "I told the one sitting next to me: 'Should we be getting (GM) Dallas Green's reaction to this?'"

"No, no. We're gonna write the story and tomorrow when they fire him there will be another story."

"I said, 'I'm going up to talk to Dallas.'"

So Friske departed and went to Green's office. After the secretary let Friske in, Green looked up and said, "Hey. Whaddya want?"

Friske: "Do you have any reaction to what happened down at the clubhouse?"

The second-year GM, staring blankly at Friske: "No. What happened in the clubhouse?"

Friske: "Lee kinda lost it and ripped the fans and the city of Chicago."

Green: "WHAT!?!? Uhh, you have to go. I'll get back to you." After Friske left, Green listened to the tape then quickly called Elia's office.

No answer. So he tried again.

According to Grobstein, Elia - who was hustling out to umpire his daughter's softball game - returned only because he'd forgotten his car keys. Green asked Elia what happened in the postgame interview and Elia swore (pardon the pun) he didn't remember a thing about the blow-up.

"That's how nuts he went," said Friske, who was an official scorer for the Cubs and White Sox from 1980-2020 and went on to become the Herald's night sports editor. "And I believe it. He told Dallas, 'I don't remember saying any of that stuff.'"

Green said that if Elia, who is now 85 and lives in Odessa, Florida, hadn't answered the phone, he would have fired him the next day. By the time an apology was crafted, a member from every TV and radio station was packed into Green's office.

"You couldn't even get in," Friske said.

The remorseful Elia said: "The fans don't win games for you, and I'm aware of that. If apologizing is the right word for it, then the fans have one sincerely from me. We have to try to win for them."

Elia's job was safe - for the time being. The Cubs actually got to 38-39 on July 3 thanks to a 20-11 stretch that began with a 3-2 victory over the Astros on June 1.

But the wheels fell off after the all-star break, and Elia was fired on Aug. 22. The Cubs were 54-69.

•  • •

When the 25th anniversary rolled around in 2008, Elia - who'd never listened to the entire episode from start to finish - also found Grobstein's recording on a website.

"My wife and I are sitting there having coffee, and I hit that thing and there it goes," Elia said at the time. "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?'"

One of the most interesting things to come out of the incident is the fact that Grobstein, who died in January 2022, had the only recording. Most print reporters in those days simply jotted down quotes.

As for Elia, he used the event's 25th anniversary in 2008 to raise money for charity. The autographed baseballs were placed in an acrylic case and included a message from Elia that could be heard at the push of a button:

"I'll tell you one thing. 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 this ballpark every day and work hard for a living are no nickel-and-dimers. They deserve a championship. They're the real Chicago Cub fans. AND PRINT IT!"

Forty years ago, Chicago Cubs manager Lee Elia erupted during a postgame press conference. WLS radio's Les Grobstein, above, captured the moment on tape. Courtesy of WSCR/670-AM
Forty years ago, Chicago Cubs manager Lee Elia erupted during a postgame press conference. Don Friske, above, who worked for the Daily Herald for more than 40 years, recalls the events of that memorable day. Daily Herald File Photo
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