October 11, 2022
On this episode, WISH-TV's Charlie Clifford connects with a 68-year-old guy, who for the first time since 1975, spent a summer back home near Hazleton, PA. His name is Joe Maddon, Major League Baseball’s mad scientist manager who over the past 15 plus-years used unconventional tactics on the and field and off to ignite two of the game's most hapless franchises. You may have heard what happened in Chicago in 2016? We’ll get into that in a moment. First, 2007 in Tampa Bay, after 27 years as a pro baseball coach, Maddon finally received his first shot at managing in the big leagues. 27 years. The catch? The Devil Rays were the 'Bad News Bears.' The franchise, existing at the time for just 9 seasons, had finished above last place in the American League East Division just once. Plus, they were coming off the worst season in club history. 61 wins. 101 losses. More people were going to minor league games across America than showing up to watch these guys. Welcome to Tampa, first time skipper Joe Maddon. Immediately things got weird, but in the best way. On the cutting edge of the analytics tidal wave about to sweep over the game, Maddon routine played a new lineup nearly every night. His team dress code? “If you look hot, wear it.” The clubhouse, turned into a madhouse. Maddon’s philosophy, "The crazier the better." Perhaps the best story of Maddon’s stress-free approach came a few seasons later. Tampa, off to an 0-6 to start the season, was flying to its third series of the year and here comes shots of booze for the entire plane. Maddon from the cockpit ordered over the loudspeaker a toast to the "Best 0-6 team in the history of baseball." That’s Joe. As one former player put it, he is "The all-time ambassador of fun." In Maddon’s second season in Tampa the team broke the major league record for biggest improvement by a team who finished with the league’s worst record just one season previous. And that wasn’t the best part. The Tampa Bay Rays were in the World Series after beating the reigning champion Boston Red Sox in 7 games to win the American League. Maddon’s Rays, with a total payroll less than one quarter of what the Yankees spent that season were playing in the World Series. This is when Joe Maddon was no longer the small-town star quarterback from a struggling coal mining Pennsylvania town, no longer the unheard-of catching prospect at Lafayette college, no longer the failed minor league player, no longer the corky coach in the Angels system who couldn’t catch his big break. Instead Joe Maddon, undeniably, was the best manager in baseball. Why didn’t give up long before this? How did he acquire a PHD in people skills without a college degree? How did he help break the most infamous professional sports curse on Earth? These are some of the questions I asked Joe in this conversation. He joins us on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in Sugar Loaf, PA, not far from the friendly diner his 90-year-old mom Beanie worked at until just recently. His late dad Joe, a local plumber, surely serviced countless homes around the neighborhood his oldest son spent this summer golfing and figuring out what’s next after being let go as Los Angeles Angels manager mid-season. Oh yeah, and he wrote a book. It’s Called The Book of Joe. You can pre-order it now wherever you get your books. It’s really good. With the help of the best baseball writer in the game, Tom Verducci, Maddon shares his life story, advice on leadership, coaching, and his favorite tales that came with being one of the more unique people to ever put on a baseball uniform. Think of this interview, coming your way right now with Joe Maddon, as the first pitch. There is so much more in that book. As we always say, there are stories to tell. And my only question for you, is Who’s Got Next?! Thanks for stopping by!