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Rays Manager Joe Maddon grew up here. Mom Beanie is still here.
Published Oct. 27, 2008

In the living room, SportsCenter is on. They're talking about Joe Maddon, the Tampa Bay Rays' manager, and his spunky 75-year-old mother. The newscaster quotes her saying something that ends with, "Or I'll choke him."

"What did I say?" Beanie Maddon asks, hustling in to watch.

"Mom, sit down," says Carmine Parlatore, 53, Joe's younger sister. It's the night before the Rays play Game 3 of the World Series in Philadelphia, and the spotlight is shining on Beanie and the town two hours away where Maddon grew up.

The program begins, panning across the October orange leaves of the city's coal-rich hills: "Here is Hazleton, a time-worn blue collar town." Beanie is short and stubborn, wearing powder-blue jeans that match the trim on her white Nikes. Her gray-white hair is combed away from her small face.

She smiles faintly at pictures of her son in his college football uniform. She refuses to look when she appears on TV at the Third Base Luncheonette, where she has worked for nearly 60 years. As the segment ends, the commentators start dissecting her son.

"Joe Maddon's got a philosophy," one says. "Accountability. Integrity."

- - -

Albina "Beanie" Klocek's first lessons came from this hardscrabble town and the immigrants who kept it humming. Each ethnicity had its own corner of town: the Poles, the Irish, the Italian, the Jews.

She was born to a Polish family, the seventh of 10 children after one died as an infant. She learned to accept hand-me-downs and help with chores.

For 30 years, her father worked in the mines, shoveling coal into mule-drawn cars and coming home with eyes darkened from dust. He died of black lung disease about six months after he retired.

In high school, Beanie started pitching in at the Third-Base luncheonette, so named because it's the next best place to home. Her sister and brother-in-law opened it in 1949. She has made sandwiches and waited the counter for decades, watching the high school athletes age into retirees.

A man named Joseph Anthony Maddon would drop in. Beanie knew of him, a short man whose face turned red when he laughed. Joe served in Germany during World War II. He was Italian, but she didn't mind.

"I just looked at the person," Beanie said. "I just took him for what he was."

They married and had three children, Joseph John, Carmine and Mark.

"That was a love story," Carmine sighed.

- - -

Her husband, who also grew up in a big family, went into his father's plumbing business with his brothers. Their families teemed in apartments upstairs. He was good-natured, patient and honest. Something in him attracted people.

He got up in the middle of the night to fix a neighbor's plumbing. When he couldn't find a part, he made it. He always worked with an unlit cigar in his mouth.

As the seasons changed, so did the sports. Joe watched them all and earned the nickname Howard, after Howard Cosell, because he'd jabber so much at the games on TV. But when their son played, he moved into the background, quietly supportive.

If the junior Joe hit a baseball through a window, his father was glad he was practicing. No one in Hazleton can remember him losing his temper.

"I never heard his dad swear. I never saw him get mad," said Dave Cassarella, 57, Joe's friend.

The horde of children would swarm around him. But when Beanie walked into the room, they scattered. She was the disciplinarian. She had her standards and expected them to be followed.

When they went to visit relatives' homes at Christmas, she would say, "What is not mine, I do not touch." If they needed a reminder, she would gently hold their hand. If they misbehaved, she would whack them with a toy bat.

More than anything, her threat was psychological.

"The first person you would worry about was Beanie," Carmine said. "'Wait till Beanie finds out. Oh, God, we're dead.'"

Beanie passed on the lessons she learned from growing up poor in a large family. Respect others. Work hard. Be humble. "Always remember, you're good, but there's somebody better, so watch out." Stay positive and you'll pull through the hard times.

- - -

If there's one piece of Hazleton that travels easily, it's the hoagies. So on Saturday morning, Beanie stopped by the bustling Base to pick them up. Wearing Rays gear and a necklace with a flying pig charm, she packed about a dozen hoagies, some Senape's pizza and candy into three insulated bags

Before she left for Philadelphia, she gave an interview to Tampa Bay's Channel 10 in front of the Joe Maddon corner of the Base, just behind the penny candy counter. She started talking about her husband and his wedding ring, which she fused to hers when he died.

"She's never done an interview when she doesn't mention him," said Charmaine Brunda, 56, who has worked and girl-talked with Beanie at the Base for 18 years. "It's still there. She still wishes he were here today to see it."

Beanie started to cry. The videographer put his camera down.

- - -

This is Beanie's schedule nowadays.

On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, she wakes up at 6 a.m., drinks some juice and gets ready for work. If the Rays won, she'll watch every replay. At 7:30, she walks about a block to the Base and has a cup of coffee. She slices tomatoes, makes hoagies and wraps them. She finishes work at 2 p.m. and hustles home to catch One Life To Live, her "story."

One night a week, she makes dinner for Carmine and her husband, Eddie. The other nights, she has dinner at her daughter's house. On Saturday, she goes to church and out to lunch. On Sunday, she spends time with Carmine. She zips around the narrow one-way streets of Hazleton in a silver Mitsubishi Outlander, a gift from her son.

She likes her routine. Lately, it's even better. The town roots for the Tampa Bay Rays like they're the home team. Dedications to Joe Maddon have popped up in his old haunts.

Beanie often watches the games alone. She sits in her husband's chair, holding onto his favorite Angels jacket. If the Rays are down or the other team is batting, Beanie goes into another room. She can't stand to watch them lose.

The night the Rays won the pennant, she called Carmine and they screamed in hysterics.

"My nerves were so shot, I took a little glass of wine," said Beanie, who almost never drinks. "Some kind of red stuff."

In the last few weeks, reporters have overrun Hazleton. Beanie, obliging their requests, has lost count of the interviews.

But if they ask to see the apartment where she lives alone with her memories, the answer is a no. She says, "That's my special place."

- - -

In the back of the Outlander, Beanie keeps plastic containers with florist wire and jugs of water. She drives about five minutes to the Our Lady of Grace Cemetery, where Joseph Anthony Maddon is buried.

Maddon was buried with an Angels cap on, but Beanie has kept him up-to-date. His slick gray tombstone used to wear an Angels sticker, but she replaced it when their son became a Devil Ray and again when the team changed to the Rays. She visits his grave, which overlooks a high school football field, and farther on, a baseball diamond.

She talks to him.

"I tell him to get them to win. I say a lot of things. Whatever's going on that day. If I had a bad day, I tell him about it."

Maddon died April 15, 2002, just as the baseball season was starting. It was the same year that his son, as a bench coach for the Angels, would share in a World Series title. Hazleton agrees that the younger Maddon takes after his father - patient, persevering, upbeat, a leader by example.

If Maddon could see his namesake now, Beanie says, "you wouldn't be able to touch him," because he'd be so proud.

But Beanie thinks he does see. She believes he had a hand in this season of destiny.

When the Rays play in Philadelphia, she knows he is watching.