Braves’ Lee Elia knows hitting (and what not to say anymore)

The Braves' Lee Elia knows hitting, but that's not what he is best known for.

The Braves' newest coach, Lee Elia, knows hitting -- but that's not what he is best known for.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Lee Elia is telling a story and keeping it clean.

“Pulled the tape out of a drawer about three, four years ago,” he said. “Hadn’t heard it since it happened. Me and my wife sat there and listened to it, about 10 o’clock in the morning over a cup of coffee. We couldn’t stop laughing. Of course, every place I go I get my ass kicked over it.”

He stopped.

“Hey, can you not write that word?”

Through my career I’ve had several interview subjects ask me to “clean up” their quotes for them. This was the first time I ever had someone best known for unleashing, a three-minute, 42-expletive tirade ask me to remove the “a” word from harmless context.

Let’s start with this: Lee Elia knows baseball. He knows hitting. It’s why at the age of 73 and after over 51 years in baseball and time with nine organizations as a coach, manager and adviser, he can still get a job. Elia was working with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season as a special assistant when Braves GM Frank Wren offered him a position as a hitting coach, assisting Larry Parrish.

“Lee has a really sterling reputation for his passion, a passion for instructing,” Wren said.

Yes. Passion. It can reveal itself in so many ways. In Elia’s case, passion erupted like Mount Vesuvius on April 29, 1983. This was before Twitter and a 24/7 news cycle, but not before tape recorders. Elia, then manager of the Chicago Cubs, went on a profanity-saturated rant to the media following a loss, notable in that it ripped Cubs fans.

You can find the full audio and a transcript of the tirade online. Here’s one amusing excerpt (sanitized for your protection):

“I’ll tell you one [bleepin’] thing, I hope we get [bleepin’] hotter than [bleep], just to stuff it up them 3,000 [bleepin’] people that show up every [bleepin’] day, because if they’re the real Chicago [bleepin’] fans, they can kiss my [bleepin’] ass right downtown and PRINT IT. … What the [bleep] am I supposed to do, go out there and let my [bleepin’] players get destroyed every day and be quiet about it? For the [bleepin’] nickel-dime people who turn up? …  They oughta go out and get a [bleepin’] job. … Eighty-five percent of the [bleepin’] world is working. The other fifteen percent come out here.”

The Elia-autographed and "PRINT it" baseball. (via LeeUnplugged.com)

The Elia-autographed and "PRINT it" baseball. (via LeeUnplugged.com)

I’ve seen various accountings of Elia’s tender soliloquy. One referenced 37 derivations of the “f” word.

I counted 35. Maybe two got bleeped.

Any way, the Elia rant became woven into baseball’s non-PG fabric, along with Billy Martin and Tommy Lasorda rants. Elia was approached a few years ago about trying to spin the incident into a positive. He autographed baseballs and below that wrote, “And PRINT it!” The balls were sold with a CD of the tirade and a portion of the proceeds went to Chicago charities.

You can still find the items for sale at LeeUnplugged.com for $59.95. When informed of this Monday Elia was stunned. “They used to be $89.95,” he said. (He received only an upfront fee.)

Several Braves players huddled around a computer to listen to a computer download of the rant early in spring training.

“We were all dying laughing,” catcher David Ross said. “He was dropping F-bombs but he was sticking up for his players and talking about how hard they worked while ragging on the fans. We’ve all had those days.”

Elia’s day was a 4-3 Cubs loss to the Dodgers at Wrigley Field. A wild pitch by Lee Smith scored the winning run. Two Chicago players, Larry Bowa and Keith Moreland, went into the stands after arguments with fans. Elia had to pull them out. Then he spoke with four reporters, one of whom had a tape recorder that Elia didn’t see, “And my immaturity as a first-year manager showed,” he said.

Somebody gave him a tape that he threw into a drawer but never listened to. “I tried to erase it from my memory,” he said. Then a few years back, he pulled it out.

Elia cracked that he never even used “that word” until the army. ” My dad told me when I was a kid, ‘That word is going to get you in trouble one day,’” he said. “And it did, 27 times.”

It’s easy to lose count.

By Jeff Schultz

Previous posts from Braves’ camp

Chipper Jones gets hit in return and takes a swing at critics

Braves camp: Chipper’s return, Uggla’s debut, Cox’s spring ejection

Braves hoping to recreate chemistry from 2010 season

So what does Freddie Freeman (3 doubles) do for an encore?

Digi-Blog goes to Braves’  spring training at Disney (they charge, I don’t)

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

34 comments Add your comment

Fish Bisch

February 28th, 2011
3:20 pm

Oregon Brave

February 28th, 2011
3:23 pm

Tucker T

February 28th, 2011
3:25 pm

Nice story Jeff.

JSS

February 28th, 2011
3:28 pm

At he did not spit on the Cubs fans twice like “Old Teddy Ballgame” did!!! I kinda miss old school Baseball…

@ Jeff Schultz…
There’s a question that needs to be answered on your Chipper blog… Use more sun screen…

JSS

February 28th, 2011
3:29 pm

And that is “at least” he did not…

Coach D.

February 28th, 2011
3:31 pm

Excellent. Seems like good chemistry is already starting! Go Braves!

phil

February 28th, 2011
3:44 pm

Great. A 73 year old hitting coach best known for cursing like a sailor 28 years ago after yet another Cubs loss. Can he actually see the ball the guys are trying to swing at? Does he remember that bats are made of wood and not aluminum?

Can’t wait to see the walks to K ratio this year!

Reid Adair

February 28th, 2011
3:50 pm

Great blog post, Jeff. I had long forgotten about Lee Elia’s tirade that day.

heartofdarkness

February 28th, 2011
3:53 pm

Mr. Elia would have done well in Deadwood, maybe tossing a few down at the Gem Saloon.

Atlanta is my Home

February 28th, 2011
4:25 pm

Atlanta…Imagine if we could buy alcohol on Sunday

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TOM_UuQzc0

Jeff Schultz

February 28th, 2011
4:59 pm

Thanks Tucker.

Skeezix

February 28th, 2011
5:00 pm

That Elia rant was hilarious! Reminds me of some of the Lasorda rants I heard when I lived in the LA area. Tommy could go off like that.

Jeff Schultz

February 28th, 2011
5:00 pm

JSS — Correct, no spitting. … I’ll check out the question.

Jeff Schultz

February 28th, 2011
5:01 pm

Phil — No, he’s blind and has lost all control of his faculties, that’s why he was hired. (Sarcasm.)

Jeff Schultz

February 28th, 2011
5:02 pm

Thanks Reid. That’s why I’m here — to never let people forget about their past!

Doug

February 28th, 2011
5:11 pm

JSS, knows nothing about anything. His posts are hot air.

"Chef" Tim Dix

February 28th, 2011
5:12 pm

I’d call his “tirade” just a slow tuesday at the Chef’s Manor.

rm

February 28th, 2011
5:13 pm

Yeh heartofdarkness, him and Swerigen would have made quite the pair! That was a F@#%%& good show.

Marty "Taco" Perez

February 28th, 2011
5:20 pm

Geez……….this is like listening to one of those old Redd Foxx cassettes………

JSS

February 28th, 2011
5:23 pm

Doug
February 28th, 2011
5:11 pm
“JSS, knows nothing about anything. His posts are hot air.”

You do know that hot air rises to the top unless forcefully or cooled in some manner? Which force do you pretend to be ? ;-)

JSS

February 28th, 2011
5:28 pm

What year was the “infamous” Lasorda rant? He was “Little Miss Sunshine” that day!

My favorite part was “85% of the @#$%&* world’s working, and the other 15 come out here!”

Doug

February 28th, 2011
5:34 pm

JSS, please, save your lame comments.

JSS

February 28th, 2011
6:16 pm

Doug, don’t start what you’re willing to finish… I never engaged you; but “you” choose to type something… So……………?

n

February 28th, 2011
7:07 pm

Seattle fan in the 90’s and Lee was with Piniella in Seattle at the time…very highly respected and as good a bench and hitting coach as you will find. He is a lifer.

Chicagojeff

February 28th, 2011
8:56 pm

Thanks for bringing back a great memory Jeff. Lee was swimming against a tide back then in Chicago. Seriously.. we cub fans owe Lee a debt. With his tirade and Larry Bowa’s actions they put people on notice that the Cubs weren’t going to roll over and just get their butts kicked anymore. A couple of years later the Cubs won the Division and lost that heartbreaker to San Diego. Lee is responsible for a lot of that. Dallas Green and Lee put some fire back into the North Side they hadn’t had since Leo the Lip..

Chicagojeff

February 28th, 2011
8:59 pm

Also.. Jeff. wouldn’t this be second to only Coach Knights halftime rant??

bali

March 1st, 2011
7:48 am

that was a great f in storyand i do not care what the f others maysay…good f in work jeff

Quicherbichin

March 1st, 2011
8:35 am

Phil… I know of a job you need…. You need to work in the carnival as one of the targets in the baseballl tossing booth… In Roger Clemens home town. i’d pay big money to see him throw baseballs at you all day every day. just because Lee Elia is 71 doesn’t mean he can’t teach… Ohhh… I bet YOU are a teacher….if so, I pray for the kids in your class.. It must suck to have a teacher who is not only dim, but is afraid of old people.

ATL Fan

March 1st, 2011
9:17 am

F-bombs like those remind me of the Braves minor league Coach who threw the rosin bag grenade.

Bravo Bandit

March 1st, 2011
9:38 am

Eighty-five percent of the [bleepin’] world is working. The other fifteen percent sit in their mother’s basement and [bleepin'] rag on Chippie, the best [bleepin'] baseball player to ever [bleepin'] play.”

[...] – Braves’ Lee Elia knows hitting (and what not to say anymore) [...]

Brock

March 1st, 2011
10:04 am

ATL Fan- I still get a kick out of that video. although I try to pictue Leo Mazzone being that guy. hilarious!!

I like this guy already, Outspoken, experience and seems to have a sense of humor. Exact opposite of TP.

Runnin

March 1st, 2011
11:49 am

Great article Jeff!

By the way, did Mt. Vesuvius erupt on April 29,1983? I couldn’t find anything about it. ;)

Watch this hilarious video

March 2nd, 2011
4:22 pm

Atlanta…Imagine if we could buy alcohol on Sunday

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TOM_UuQzc0

GO BRAVESSSSSSSSSSSSSS