The Rundown: Lee Elia Week, Last Dance Continues to Impress, Tensions Grow Between Owners and MLBPA

Wednesday is the 37th anniversary of the famous Lee Elia rant, a legendary diatribe that never gets tiresome, and Danny Rockett of the Son Ranto Podcast will be doing something unique to honor Elia with the help of his friends and listeners. That ties in nicely with my Monday morning commentary. Over the weekend I watched the documentary Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk, which is a wonderful history of the caddie/golfer relationship. That got me to thinking about the role of the bat boy in baseball.

The bat boy has been a part of baseball since the 1880’s according to most historians, and most do much more than replace broken bats. Often the bat boy will work as an assistant to the clubhouse manager, helping with bats, preparing batting helmets, stocking chewing gum, sunflower seeds, and energy bars, and occasionally helping to relay messages to wanton fans. But their duties can be much more beneficial (or detrimental) to the teams that employ them.

Bat boy duties can range from doing laundry in the clubhouse to getting the car of former Mets GM Omar Minaya washed and waxed. Recently, as advanced metrics and sign stealing have come into the game, the youngsters have had to expand their skill sets to help out their teams in more stealthy ways. This Astros bat boy is a prime example.

On April 27, 2007, former New York Mets bat boy and assistant clubhouse attendant and bat boy (1985-1995) pleaded guilty in United States district court to money laundering and illegal distribution of anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, Clenbuterol, amphetamines, and other drugs to dozens of current and former MLB players and coaches throughout the league.

Ed. note: Radomski’s tell-all memoir, Bases Loaded: The Inside Story of the Steroid Era in Baseball by the Central Figure in the Mitchell Report, is a fascinating depiction of the evolution of baseball from a fitness perspective. While the anabolic steroids and HGH were obviously a huge part of that, Radomski also helped to usher in proper nutrition and legitimate workout equipment. It’s hard to imagine now, but MLB clubhouses in the 80’s and 90’s were almost completely devoid of weights and prominently featured junk food on the pre-game training table.

A couple bat boys eventually reached the major leagues as players. Former Nationals closer Drew Storen was once a bat boy for the Expos and Jesse Litsch, who once pitched for the Blue Jays, was a bat boy for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays during the 2001 and ’02 seasons.

An incident involving the son of Giants manager Dusty Baker in the 2002 World Series forced MLB to raise the minimum age for clubhouse help to 14. Darren Baker, then 3 1/2 years old and serving as more of a mascot than an actual helper, went out to retrieve a bat in the middle of a scoring play and was grabbed by J.T. Snow. Had Snow not intervened, the youngster may have been involved in a home plate collision.

But the best bat boy story involves Elia. On May 27, 1984, 14-year-old Portland Beavers bat boy Sam Morris was kicked out of a game for refusing to pick up a chair. Elia was the manager of the Beavers at the time and chucked a folding chair into right field during a spirited post-ejection tirade. Umpire Pam Potesma, who eventually became the first female umpire to work a spring training game for MLB, was equally mad and refused to clean up after the manager. She ordered Morris to remove the chair from the field and the bat boy declined out of loyalty to Elia, so Potesma ejected him too.

Triple-A ejections came with $25 fines back then, but the Pacific Coast League made an exception for Morris. “How do you fine a bat boy?” PCL president William Cutler asked.

Cubs News & Notes

  • If you are looking for clues as to when the 2020 MLB season will reboot, Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said nobody truly knows.
  • With the upcoming shortened MLB first-year player draft, still tentatively scheduled for June, the team’s new minor league executive staff is really under the gun.
  • Yu Darvish is donating proceeds from his earnings on his YouTube channel to various charities. It’s probably a much bigger amount than you would think.
  • Ian Happ gets up close and personal in the latest edition of The Offseason on the Cubs YouTube channel.
  • Hack Wilson turned 120 yesterday. I wish I has a Kenny Mayne-like quip to honor the team’s single season RBI leader, but I don’t.
  • I thought they had been discontinued, but apparently Cubs Waffles are still available at a grocer near you. They were initially introduced during the 2017 season. They’re not blue, but you can get blueberry waffles.
  • In simulated baseball action, the Jon Lester outdueled Jake Arrieta yesterday in leading the Cubs to a 6-2 win over the Phillies via MLB The Show 20, a season that CI’s Ryan Davis been gaming since the originally scheduled Opening Day.
  • The Strat-O-Matic Cubs are 19-9 after beating the Phillies 9-5, thanks to home runs by Happ, Anthony Rizzo, and Willson Contreras.
  • Rick Sutcliffe once played a practical joke on new manager David Ross during an ESPN broadcast when Ross tried to sneak away for a bio break.
  • Our friends at 26 Shirts have designed a new t-shirt to raise money for Shriners Hospital for Children in St. Louis, a personal charity selected by Cubs Insider EIC Evan Altman, who has been instrumental in raising money for the facility all year. Evan helped with the design and it’s one of the best I’ve seen, so I ordered a hoodie.

Apropos of Nothing

If you have been following ESPN’s The Last Dance, episodes 3 and 4 aired last night. The first of those featured my favorite Bulls game of all time, known in Chicago and Cleveland as “The Shot,” in which the Bulls beat the Cavaliers to win the 1989 first round series on an unbelievable last-second shot by Michael Jordan.

I remember driving up and down Lake Shore Drive in my ’83 Grand Prix blasting Pump Up the Volume by M/A/R/R/S after the game ended. Good times. I wish they never stopped making cars with bench seats. You older readers will know exactly what I mean by that.

Odds & Sods

There are some things you can never unsee.

MLB News & Notes

If anything, the quarantined version of the NFL’s annual draft proved that the nation is starved for sports content. That could bode well for MLB games played in empty stadiums, at least from a ratings perspective.

Tension continues to grow between the league and the player’s union over any attempts by the league to reduce the salaries of its players for games played in empty stadiums or those where attendance is minimized due to social distancing requirements.

Chad Bettis who worked as a starter for the Rockies over the past seven seasons, will work strictly out of the bullpen for the Yankees once baseball resumes.

Free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig is allegedly close to signing a one-year contract with the Giants, which is leading some to think that the return of baseball is not far off.

Extra Innings

That time a baseball game ended with the score of 2 1/2 to 2.

“One time I hit the ball so hard that it broke in two. Half of the ball struck a “Hit Me for a Free Pair of Shoes” sign on the left-field fence; the other half was retrieved by the left fielder and thrown into the catcher. As I steamed home, the catcher tagged me with half a ball. The umpire called me out, but I successfully argued that our team deserved half a run. It was a close game and we won by the score of 2½ to 2.” – Perry Werden

They Said It

  • “The virus will tell us when the season starts. It won’t be commissioner [Rob Manfred]. It won’t be the players association. And it certainly won’t be me. The virus is going to tell us when we can play.” – Crane Kenney
  • “The guys I’ve talked to, they can’t wait to get back to Wrigley. And they can’t wait to be around what I consider is a family that I promise you will be hungry when that season starts and we’re going to hit the ground running with the goal of winning a championship.” – David Ross

Monday Walk Up Song

Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) by Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band – This live performance from the London Hammersmith Odeon in 1975 is all the energy you need to kickstart your Monday Morning.

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