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They know Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon was named American League Manager of the Year Wednesday for guiding a young Tampa Bay Rays team with few stars and a slim payroll to the World Series. As sports writers have noted, the Rays were only the second team in history to go from the worst record in the majors one season to the World Series the next. They were the first in the era of free agency to reach the World Series when they started with the lowest payroll in their league. Joe Maddon surprised the baseball world. But not those who know him.

He was a leader from a very young age.
Francis Libonati, Maddon's high school American history teacher

Joe played freshman football, and had a very good year. He was a very good athlete from a good family.
Norm Gigon, former baseball coach at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania

In 1977, he was backup catcher. His dad came out to visit him from Hazleton, Pa. Our starter got injured and Joe wound up in the lineup. He went 4 for 4 with four of the hardest line drives I've seen anywhere. Every time Joe would get a base hit, his dad would go around and introduce himself to the fans. quot;That's my son. He just got a hit.''
Peter Ciccarelli, manager of the Class A Salinas (Calif.) Angels in 1977-78

That's what I think made him such a great guy. He has the old blue-collar American spirit from Hazleton, Pa. He's got all the attributes you admire about the World War II generation.
Gigon, former baseball coach

He always seemed to be under control. When he played quarterback — and this was when he was young — I remember him calling audibles at the line of scrimmage.
Libonati, teacher

On an off day, it was hard for a pitcher to get a catcher on his day off to go in and catch balls. But Joe would do that all the time.
Don Lyons, played with Maddon in the minor leagues

In class, he asked very penetrating questions. He wasn't always seeking the answers, but more exploring the whys, the complexities.
Libonati, teacher

We played together in 1977. Joe was a renaissance man. He was a college guy. He brought a real flair into minor-league ball.
Lyons, former minor-league player

He encouraged me to read books. Books that were a little more involved than I wanted to be.
Rex Hudler, commentator, former major-league player

We would all be reading Sporting News and Joe would be reading Rolling Stone.
Lyons, former minor-league player

One day he came into the office and said, ''I really want to be a pro baseball player.'' I was very honest with him. I said, ''You could be a good catcher. If you do make it, you'd probably have to make it as a backup catcher.'' Joe was insistent. He really wanted to play baseball.
Gigon, former coach

We got about $7 a day in meal money, so we had to get pretty creative. Joe would give us a shopping list. He would cook and we would just shop and clean up.
Lyons

Chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, sausage and peppers. He could take an old catcher's mitt and with his marinara sauce make it the best meal on the block.
Ciccarelli, former Salinas manager

We used to give clinics in small towns for kids. So I was with Joe one time and when it was over, I said, ''Jesus, Joe, you sounded like a real coach.'' He said, ''Don, I'm going to manage some day. I really like this.''
Lyons

I went down to Anaheim, and I was telling them, I don't know what your plans are next year for Joe, but I want him back in Salinas. I don't think he's going to go anywhere in this organization as a player, but he's going to manage somewhere, and he should be doing it in the Angels organization.
Ciccarelli

I had no idea how to run a baseball team; I was a road contractor. So I'm in the office one day, and a guy walks in. He says, "Hi, I'm Joe Maddon. I'm the manager and I just wanted to let you know that I've never managed before." I said, "Hi Joe, I'm Pete Vonachen. I'm the owner, and you should know that I've never owned a team before."
Pete Vonachen, former owner of the minor-league Peoria Chiefs

I was a member of the Angels in 1994, when he came up. Joe had this great enthusiasm, like we hadn't seen. Some of the other guys weren't so sure how to take him. But that's something that this guy had that we needed.
Hudler, commentator, former major-league player

We never talked about the things we did know. We always talked about the things we didn't know.
Vonachen

During spring training in '95, Maddon starts making out the schedule on a computer. We'd never seen it done like that.
Hudler

A lot of the old scouts said that there's no place in the game for computers, Joe. You're silly for doing that. He said, "If you criticize me for using a computer, don't turn your air conditioner on in the car on your way home."
Ciccarelli, Salinas manager

He's an outside-the-box thinker. He used to ride his bike in Mesa, Ariz., then lie on a yoga mat on the grass in the front yard and do yoga in his spandex. Everybody could see him, but he doesn't care what anybody thinks.
Joey Maddon, Joe's son

I got a job coaching varsity baseball and I asked Joe for a piece of advice. He said, 'Teach one process really well each day. Don't try two. Even guys who make millions of dollars are amazed when a jet flies overhead. Don't lose them.''
Lyons

He demanded the respect of his players. There was no shouting, no kicking wastebaskets. And the kids respected him for that.
Vonachen

He always put a quote at the bottom of the schedule. Shakespeare, Sugar Ray Leonard, a little one- or two-liner. We kind of laughed. But all of a sudden, it starts permeating, and the next thing you know these guys were coming to the ballpark looking for the quote of the day.
Hudler

After the season, he had a box of stationery and I asked what he was going to do with it. He said he was going to give each player a hand-written note and tell them how much he appreciates them.
Betty Maddon, ex-wife

Before games, he'd walk along the fence and he'd stop and talk to the fans and shake their hands and sign autographs.
Vonachen

At the minor-league level, you're always looking for cheap ways to promote your ball club. At that age, the guys aren't interested in doing those things. But Joe was very outgoing. He did our TV commercials.
Ciccarelli

Joe is a brilliant marketer, very creative. He branded Tropicana Field the Pit.
Darcy Raymond, Rays vice president for fan experience

Joe was willing to do anything we asked him to do. We went to the Chamber, to the Rotary lunches. We never ate so much Swiss steak at Methodist churches in our lives.
Vonachen

The first meeting he had here, in February of '06, he spoke to a couple hundred season ticket holders. He said for years he had been coming to the Trop with the Angels. And when it got loud, it was very tough to play. ''Let's turn this place into the pit,'' he told them. ''Let's make it so loud the other team can't stand it. Let's make this our home field advantage.''
Raymond, Rays' VP for fan experience

Joe was getting ready for batting practice. He said, ''Pete, you got any baseballs?'' I said, ''Yeah, I got eight dozen, but they're for tonight's game.'' I said, ''Jesus, Joe, I'm sorry. I didn't think about ordering baseballs.'' And Joe says, ''Well, Pete, they're essential for the game.''
Vonachen

It took on a life of its own. It sparked the booster club, Maddon's Maniacs, 500 of our loudest and proudest fans. He meets with them throughout the season. They lead their sections in cheers, start the wave.
Raymond

I was up in our press box bellyaching about an umpire. He had a strike zone that was wider than a state highway. I was saying, "This guy's terrible. This guy's awful." I was really upset. We had a live organist back then, and he leans back and says, "Pete, want me to play Three Blind Mice?" I said, "Play it!" So he starts. That umpire's mask went 200 feet up in the air! Joe was just laughing.
Vonachen

We talked after he joined the Rays. He said, "Mr. Libonati, this organization is going to be good. There are really some great things in store." He wasn't arrogant about it. He just felt very confident.
Libonati, Maddon's teacher

It was evident that Joe was going to have to get the Rays' clubhouse together. They were a little undisciplined the first couple of years. He saw that and said I've got to have some veteran guys, so look what he does. He goes out and finds some guys.
Hudler

He was managing in Oregon in 1981 or '82. The president of the Northwest League said, "He's going to be managing in the big leagues some day.'' Someone said, "Why's that?" He said, "When his players get off the bus, they're doing the right things."
Ciccarelli, Salinas manager

This guy had a plan for everything. We roomed together on the road. We checked into this small motel, and we were getting ready to leave and I heard something plink into the ashtray. Joe had put a dime and a nickel in the ashtray. I asked, "What are you doing that for?" He said, "If I come back and either my dime or my nickel is gone, I'll know I can't trust them."
Lyons

I sent him an e-mail after they got Matt Garza. I was ecstatic. Joe said, "Garza's a good pitcher, but that's not what I needed. We gotta start with defense." He wanted Bartlett. He knew exactly what he was doing.
Ciccarelli

Toward the end of the year, he's still doing it. One day, we come back to the hotel and in the ashtray there's a dime and five pennies. Joe says, ''I think they're messing with my head! I've got to take a walk!''
Lyons

Joe was very confident last winter. The parts were in place. And when he made the deal for Bartlett and Garza, they were ready to go.
Ciccarelli

Joe got his Rayhawk two days after B.J. Upton. He made it okay. That's when it really started catching on.
Raymond, Rays' VP for fan experience

I have a friend who is a huge baseball fan. He's a guidance counselor at my school. I asked if he would like to go see the Rays. Joe said, ''When the game is over, come to my room.'' We did. My friend was so happy. He got to talk about baseball with a major-league manager, and then Joe started asking him questions about life: How do you get kids to focus? That sort of thing.
Lyons

No one is beneath him. He knows all the security guards by name.
Raymond, Rays' VP for fan experience

There were times I walked by that office and I'd hear yelling and screaming. I'd think, ''Whoa, I'd better step back.'' That was Mike Scioscia and Maddon having it out in there. They weren't afraid of each other. They weren't afraid of sharing their views. That impressed me.
Hudler

I never heard a sideways word about Joe. True, he's sometimes driving in his own lane on the freeway of life, but count me as one who thinks that's a great thing.
Bob Hards, radio broadcaster for the Midland RockHounds

He has a way of gently massaging a player's mentality to where he forgets about the pressure of what he's doing. That kind of thing is welcome in baseball. He's like a mentor. Like a friend. Like a dad.
Hudler

We didn't spend a lot of time on the road with him. It was tough. We only got to see him a couple months out of the year. When he was there, he was a great dad.
Joey Maddon, Joe's son

I can respect him for what he's done, what he's achieved, but it came at a high price.
Betty Maddon, Joe's ex-wife

Baseball is a pretty simplistic game. The toughest part of managing is anticipation. If this happens, then we'll do this. Joe is very good at that.
Gigon

When David Price came in (Game 7, ALCS) my friends were saying, "Don't they have anything better?" I said, "This is not a hunch. Something happened along the way for Joe to say this guy can be in the position right now."
Lyons

He throws Price out there in the most critical situation in baseball. I was thinking, Joe's gotta know something about his head and his heart and his stomach. Joe must've seen something.
Vonachen

A lot of the things he did in Game 7, he was preparing for 31 years ago in Salinas. He has always believed that the game can be improved upon.
Ciccarelli

Quotes were edited for length and clarity. Times staff writers Lane DeGregory and Stephanie Garry and researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

They know Joe Maddon 11/14/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 4:00pm]
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