Lee Elia almost lost his job as manager of the Chicago Cubs yesterday after his team lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a wild pitch, 4-3, and Elia reacted with recriminations toward critical fans in Wrigley Field.
"His job was in jeopardy," General Manager Dallas Green said after hearing tapes of Elia's outburst at fans and media--and after bringing a subdued Elia in tow to apologize.
"Rip 'em, rip those country suckers like they rip my players," Elia had said of fans after the tough loss, the Cubs' 14th in 19 games. "Eighty-five percent of the people in this country work and the other 15 percent come out here and boo my players. It's a playground for them.
"A guy on television says (on a Thursday night newscast), 'The Cubs are now 5-13 and have the worst record in baseball,' so the fans hear that and they come out and take it out on my players.
"Those fans are losers and the more they boo, the harder the players try and you can't succeed when you extend yourself beyond your capabilities . . .
"I'm not upset with the fans," said Elia, who obviously was upset when a fan shouted something at him in the eighth inning and Keith Moreland had to be restrained from going into the stands. "I don't understand why the fans are upset with us. These guys are giving their all, and all the fans do is boo them. They watch television and read some nickel-and-dime editorials by guys who come out here once a year . . . "
In that eighth inning, Ken Landreaux raced home to break a 3-3 tie when Lee Smith's pitch to Pedro Guerrero bounced on home plate and landed in the stands.
Landreaux, after hitting a two-run home run in the sixth to tie the game, opened the eighth with a double for his third hit of the Dodgers' total of four; he took third on Dusty Baker's fly to deep left. Smith replaced reliever Bill Campbell (1-1) and his second pitch was wild.
After winning reliever Alejandro Pena (3-1) finished off the Cubs in the ninth, Elia sounded off.
But when he returned with Green minutes later the manager admitted, "There's no way to condone my actions. I came off a team meeting and my frustrations carried over. I lost it. Yes, this is an apology."
Green, after his "jeopardy" remark, added, "he's a man and a very emotional guy. Unfortunately, he went a step too far."