Les with LEE ELIA(“And Print It!”)on April 29,2008 at Harry Caray’s Downtown to ‘honor’ the 25th anniversary of the famous TIRADE HEARD ROUND THE WORLD.
by Les Grobstein
On Friday April 29,the Cubs hosted the Dodgers before a small crowd and entered the game 5-13. Most reporters who were there were planning to talk to local guy,Rookie Mike Marshall from Buffalo Grove who was making his Wrigley Field debut(he was also dating Belinda Carlisle of the Go Go’s at that time). The Cubs led by a run even though Marshall homered in that game. Lee Smith,who often came in for save tries earlier than the ninth inning, came on and gave up the tying run,and then the go ahead tally for LA by uncorking a wild pitch. That run held up and the Dodgers won.
After the game, most media members went to the Dodgers Clubhouse to talk with Marshall and of course Tommy Lasorda. For some reason, I decided to go to the Cubs side and see what Manager Lee Elia had to say. The only others in Elia’s office at the time were the three beat writers, Robert Marcus of the Tribune, Joel Behrig of the Sun Times and Don Friske of the Daily Herald. We entered the old Clubhouse in the left field corner and the only sound you could hear was that of hair dryers. Elia called us in and seemed very calm. He simply said “Hi fellas”. Once the four of us were in there, I started rolling tape and said “Another tough one”. He calmly nodded and then started with the now famous “WE’RE MIRED IN A LITTLE DIFFICULTY. WE’VE GOT ALL THOSE SO CALL F***** FANS,WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO BE BEHIND YOU, RIPPING EVERY F***** THING YOU DO! I KNOW ONE F***** THING, I HOPE WE GET F***** HOTTER THAN S***, JUST TO STUFF OF UP THE 3000 F***** PEOPLE WHO SHOW UP EVERY F**** DAY. BECAUSE IF THERE THE REAL CHICAGO F**** FANS, THEY CAN KISS MY F***** A**, RIGHT DOWNTOWN, AND PRINT IT! THEY’RE REALLY REALLY BEHIND YOU AROUND HERE, MY F***** A**! AND IT’S NOBODY’S FAULT HERE,BECAUSE YOU GUYS HAVE WRITTEN GOOD.”
After he paused for a moment, I checked my cassette recorder to make sure it was indeed rolling,while the print guys were writing stuff down as fast as they could.
WHAT THE F*** AM I SUPPOSED TO DO, WATCH MY F***** PLAYERS GET DESTROYED EVERY SAY, AND BE QUIET ABOUT IT, FOR THE F***** NICKLE AND DIME PEOPLE THAT SHOW UP? THE MOTHER F****** DON’T EVEN WORK! THAT’S WHY THEY’RE OUT AT THE F***** GAME! THEY OUGHT TO GO OUT AND GET A F***** JOB AND FIND OUT WHAT’S IT’S LIKE TO WORK FOR A F***** LIVING! 85% OF THE F***** WORLD’S WORKING, THE OTHER 15 COME OUT HERE! A F***** PLAYGROUND FOR THE C*** S*****! RIP THEM MOTHER F*****, RIP THEM COUNRTY C*** S*****, LIKE THE F***** PLAYERS! YOU’VE GOT GUYS BUSTING THEIR F***** A** AND THEM F***** PEOPLE BOO! AND THAT’S THE CUBS? MY F***** A**!!! THEY TALK ABOUT THE GREAT F***** SUPPORT THAT THE PLAYERS GET AROUND HERE. I HAVEN’T SEEN IT THIS F***** YEAR!
By this time, DAVID SCHUSTER(now of course with the Score, then with Sportsphone), RICH KING(then with WBBM-AM), and MARK GIANGRECCO with his NBC-5 crew(he was with Channel 5 at that time)all arrived and at first had no idea what they were getting into.
Everyone LIKED Lee Elia, he was a good guy,and I knew he was burying himself. I also knew I had way more than enough tape and wanted to get out of there, so I interuppted him with a simple “See you tomorrow.” He nodded, smiled and said “OK!” Before I could head out, Lee started up again and continued for another three of so minutes. More reporters started arriving,but I headed out. I got outside and the first guy I saw was legendary AP Writer JOE MOOSHIL(whom I also did some work for in the late 70’s and the 80’s). Joe was obviously in a hurry since he was on deadline, but I stopped him right in the left field corner and said, “Joe, I know you are in a hurry,but you have to listen to this.”
And I proceed to play it for him. His eyes started to roll and after about four minutes, he said “Oh my god” ottered a few explites,then said he would hear the rest upstairs. I had about an hour until my 4:55pm Sportscast with TOMMY EDWARDS(now the Bulls P.A.Announcer). As I was about to enter the old Press Box(which then was on the level where today the Luxury Boxes are), who were exiting the Press Box? HARRY CARAY,VINCE LLOYD and LOU BOUDREAU. I stopped them and said “Guys, I’m sure you are all in a hurry to get out of here,but I think you should hear this.” They stopped and I played it for them. Vince had a cigar the size of a treetrunk in his mouth and as the tape played, he rolled that stogie around as if he was Poppeye the Sailor Man. Harry was just stunned. Vince looked at Boudreau and said “GEEZOUS LOU, HE’S GONNA GET HIS A** FIRED!” Lou then uttered his signature “Ah this is true good kid!” They all headed out and I went into the press box, grabbed my phone and called the WLS newsroom
I had been told that morning that our engineers were going to be too busy to receive tape and so I would have to do my sportscasts without sound that afternoon. BUT things of course changed. I talked to Renee Tondelli, our engineer(Union restrictions back then prohibbed anyone from playing their own tape live on the air, an IBEW engineer had to take it in and edit it for air play). Renee told me that I should know they could not take any tape in on this day. I politly told here to just be quiet, and roll tape, that I would be responsible. She said “OK,but this BETTER be good”. I repeated to here to “Just Roll!” After about the first two minutes, I hit the pause button, she gat back on the line and said “OH MY GOD!” I asked here how long it would take to edit it for air play. She said it was about two hours of work. By that time we had about twenty minutes until air play. She did miracle work and got the first minute or so bleeped out for air play, and we played it with Tommy Edwards. The FM side also received it for use with STEVE DAHL and GARRY MEIER. You know what hit the fan after that! Our phone, and those at the Cubs offices at Wrigley,lit up!
After I aired it, Cubs Public Relations Director Bob Ibach(a good friend to this day)came into the press box and said to me that he needed a favor.I asked him what that would be(knowing full well what he was about to ask me). He said “I need to borrow your tape”. I responded, “What, to play it for Dallas(Green, the GM)?” He nodded yes. My first response was “Hell no, I’m not about to get the guy fired!” Then Friske,who was also back upstairs,said I should indeed get them the tape so they could have Elia apologize. Had this festered overnight, he would have to be terminated in the morning. I thought for a second, then told Bob “OK, but don’t try to confiscate the tape,since it’s already been dupicated.” Bob said he would never do that, but I responded ‘No,but your f***** boss would!”.
Bob played the tape for Green,who nearly flipped out. He called the Clubhouse looking for Elia who had gone to his car to leave and umpire his daughter’s softball game,but since he forgot his keys,he went back inside. THAT is when Green called,and by shear luck caught Lee before he departed for good. Keep in mind that cellphones did not hit the market for two more years. Green told Elia to get up to the GM’s office. He said he was late for his daughter’s game. Green responded that that if he(Elia)did not get upstairs fast, he should plan on cleaning out his office Saturday Morning,because he would be gone.
Other media types who had not covered this game,started making a bee-line to Wrigley to cover a 6:30pm newsconference so Elia could apologize.
He kept his job for a while,and the Cubs got hot.
The next day,the Cubs bombed the hottest pitcher in baseball Fernando Valenzuela. But many fans showed up with signs such as ‘Hey Lee, I HAVE a job and still come the the games!”. Another had a sign that said “Elia, You’re Fired, AND PRINT IT!”.
He kept his job until August when the team nose dived again, and Green finnally had to fire his good friend.
Green and others tried to blame me, in fact to this day Dallas has not gotten over being pissed at me.He told me I should have put the tape in my pocket and not aired it. Well excuse me! The print guys were going to put it in the Saturday morning papers(remember, no internet exsisted back then either),and it was my job to get this on the air-so I did.
Elia and I are on great terms to this day. Yes he was also mad for a while,but he came to town two years ago for the 25th Anniversary News Conference at Harry Caray’s downtown.
Lee also had prostate Cancer about 12 years ago and beat it. I made my mind up at the time that I would not air the “tirade” until I found out he was out of danger and was cured.
One other note: Again, no cell,phones or internet, BUT we got confirmation that the TIRADE HEARD ROUND THE WORLD had reached every Continent on Earth except Antarctica, but then it was also confirmed that a Naval Submarine near the South Pole had also received a transmission of the tirade. AND PRINT IT!