Countdown to Opening Day: 4 Days…4 words: Lee Elia, The Rant


Ryan Roberts is a rare player to wear No. 4 for the Cubs. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Four days to Opening Day and it’s safe to say you could create an entire coaching and managerial staff from the coaches and managers who have worn No. 4 for the Cubs in the past. There are your fun names – the ‘pun’ names, if you will.

Ethan Allen in 1936. Is that the furniture guy? A cartoon character from ‘Popeye’ wore No. 4 in 1941 – Wimpy Quinn.

Furthermore, there was a 34 year run from 1960-94 where only coaches and managers wore the number, with the Vic Harris in 1974-5 being the lone exception. Vic Harris? You’ve got guys like Doz Zimmer, Gene Michael and Charlie Root. And then there’s Lee Elia in 1982-3. Elia had some pretty choice words for Cub fans when he was the manager on the North Side.

It’s simply known as, ‘The Rant.’

On April 29, 1983, the Cubs loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field 4-3 to drop to 5-14 on the year. Elia’s postgame comments lasted three minutes and five seconds and included 37 F-Bombs. There were boos from the 3,000 who were there as a result to the slow start. The Cubs went on to finish in the ’83 campaign 71-91.

Elia’s speech was dead on though, “once we hit that effing groove, it will flow.” A quick look at the Cubs’ roster in ’83 compared to the National League East division champion ’84 team shows he was right.

Now, his stuff about the 85-percent of the population that has a job, leaving the remaining 15-percent to attend Cub games and boo? That was all hogwash. He laid into people who attended Wrigley Field as an unemployed group of losers who had nothing better to do than to boo the team. It’s fun to listen to, but it’s ridiculous.

Dive in a little deeper, however, and you find he knew what he was talking about regarding the talent on the team. The major players in 1983 were not a part in 1984 were Bill Buckner and Mel Hall. Buckner got traded for Dennis Eckersley and Hall for Rick Sutcliffe. Leon Durham was an outfielder in 1983 and moved to first base after Buckner was dealt to Boston. Add Bobby Dernier to the outfield and there is a 96-win team in 1984.

Most of 1983 Lee Elia was a sitting dead duck as the manager. The rant cost Elia his job and, it may have delivered post-season play to Wrigley Field for the first time in 39 years. If Elia was the manager in 1984, they might not have made their ’84 run.