Love It Or Hate It...Cubs Intervention
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent
The 2008 Cubs season is starting to play out like a daytime talk show.
One the eve of the 100th anniversary of the team's last World Series win, a century's worth of family history has been dug up and rehashed. Decades of scandal and shame have resurfaced, threatening to ruin the family name. Former patriarchs have been remembered for their failures and cautiously forgiven as the current clan seeks liberation from the past.
But just when Joe Cub Fan thinks the show is over, Crazy Uncle Lee and Cousin Moises show up to tell their side of the story as well.
This month, Lee Elia and Mosies Alou, two former members of the Cubs family, have both chosen to comment on the highly publicized outbursts that forever cemented their places in franchise lore. One is a player who waited far too long to absolve a fan; the other a former coach with a whole city of fans to answer to.
Earlier this month, Alou, now with the Mets, told a reporter he never would've caught the now-infamous flyball deflected away from his glove by overzealous fan Steve Bartman in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. The Marlins went on to score eight runs that inning and eventually won the series, four games to three.
Bartman, at the time just a 26-year-old fan who reached for a foul ball out of instinct (along with a handful of others, mind you), became the scapegoat for a team always looking for another goat to blame. The diehard Cubs fan, now living the life of a recluse, will forever be named as one of many Cubs curses.
Meanwhile, Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez, the professional baseball player who miffed the sure inning-ending double play ball that came his way a few pitches later, has always been just a footnote. Bill Buckner wants to know who does his PR.
That fateful night, after the game, Alou said "I timed it perfectly, I jumped perfectly. I'm almost 100 percent that I had a clean shot to catch the ball. All of a sudden, there's a hand on my glove.''
Now, four and a half years after he threw down his glove, stomped his feet and instilled in all of Wrigley a familiar sense of dread, Alou is singing a different tune.
"Everywhere I play, even now, people still yell, 'Bartman! Bartman!' I feel really bad for the kid," he told Associated Press columnist Jim Litke.
"You know what the funny thing is?" he continued, "I wouldn't have caught it, anyway.''
A day late and a dollar short, Moises.
On April 29, 1983, more than 20 years before Alou's glove-throwing fit of rage, then-Cubs manager Lee Elia went on an epic tirade that makes Jim Mora's "playoff" speech and Mike Gundy's "I'm a man! I'm 40!" proclamation seem tame.
After a particularly frustrating 4-3 loss to the Dodgers that dropped the team to 5-14 on the season, Cubs fans threw garbage at Keith Moreland and Larry Bowa as they left the field. That incident, paired with the constant booing directed at the team, incited Elia in a way even he can't explain.
"For that one moment, somebody triggered something," Elia said. "I'd already built up all my frustrations prior to walking into that locker room. And it just came out. I don't think the Hulk could've come in there and stopped me once I got rolling."
Radio man Les Grobstein was waiting for Elia after the game that day. The spontaneous outpouring of anger and insults caught on Grobstein's tape recorder is still one of the most memorable rants in the history of sport.
Elia blasted Cubs fans and the city of Chicago in a three-minute, 11-second rip that contained no less than 33 iterations of the "F" word. (You can hear the entire uncensored clip here — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv23pqH9iG0 - but I don't recommend listening at work)!
Elia got into it right off the bat, screaming: "I'll tell you one (bleeping) thing, I hope we get (bleeping) hotter than (bleep), just to stuff it up them 3,000 (bleeping) people that show up every (bleeping) day. Because if they're the real Chicago (bleeping) fans, they can kiss my (bleeping bleep) right downtown – and print it!"
He further admonished the fans, saying: "The (bleepers) don't even work. That's why they're out at the (bleeping) game. They oughta go out and get a (bleeping) job and find out what it's like to go out and earn a (bleeping) living. Eighty-five percent of the (bleeping) world is working. The other 15 come out here."
Today, exactly 25 years later, Elia's back in Chicago promoting a different message. Just like Denny Green, who is seeking to trademark his memorable "They are who we thought they were!" phrase, Elia is hoping to cash in on his anger.
For $89.95, fans can buy a 20-second recording of Elia expressing his love for the Cubs along with a CD-ROM of the original, unedited rant.
Elia's new message?
"I'll tell you one thing - it's time the Cubs get hotter than hell this season and [stick it to] the rest of the baseball world. The 40,000 fans who fill this ballpark everyday and work hard for a living are no nickel dimers. They deserve a championship. They're real Chicago Cubs fans. And print it."
The recordings come with a display case and an autographed baseball that reads: "Lee Elia … AND PRINT IT!" Ten percent of the sales will go to the Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities.
So, what to think of these Johnny-come-latelys? Will revisionist history help clear Bartman's name, or should we resent Alou's better-late-than-never pardon? Will Elia's new message win over spurned Cubs fans or will he forever be remembered for his creative use of the curse my mother called the "50-center"?
Perhaps the only way to truly move on would be to invite Alou and Bartman to throw out the first pitch together at Wrigley, after which Elia will do a spoken-word version of the National Anthem. Following the game, Dr. Phil can hold an informal intervention at Murphy's Bleachers where all the members of the Cubs family, past and present, can be heard and forgiven.
Alex Gonzalez, the floor is yours.