Maddon reflects fondly on father
'Man's man' sets fine example for Rays manager
ST. PETERSBURG -- Joe Maddon's memories of his father, Joseph Anthony Maddon, are plentiful, and they warm him like a blanket once did on those cold winter nights while growing up in Hazelton, Pa.
Each of the memories brings a smile to the face of the Devil Rays' manager. Like watching Gillette's Friday Night Fights with his father.
"I was just a kid, obviously," Maddon said. "He fried pepperoni for us to go along with the Cheez-Its. He had a beer and I had a Coke. And we watched the fights."
When asked what such a combination might do to his insides today, Maddon smiled and said, "I can still smell that pepperoni."
Maddon also remembered when he drove home from Lafayette College after deciding to quit football, a sport his father loved.
"I left practice and drove home," Maddon said. "I told my dad I didn't want to play football anymore. That was the only time he was ever upset with me in our lives together. He stayed mad at me for about six weeks."
Another memory had to do with Yankee Stadium.
"One of my goals growing up was to have my parents see me walking out of the dugout at Yankee Stadium, on the field in a Major League uniform, and it happened," Maddon said. "That was a real clear visual dream that I had, so when that day arrived, it was really special."
Maddon received a familiar reaction from his father that day at Yankee Stadium.
"My dad just smiled; he was a smiler," Maddon said. "It wasn't like he'd give you a hug and a kiss. He would give you a big smile and shake your hand."
Maddon's father worked at C. Maddon and Sons Plumbing and Heating, a family-owned business in Hazelton, started by Maddon's grandfather, Carmen, in the 1930s. But the family business wasn't what the father wanted for the son.
"He knew how much I loved to play ball, all the sports," Maddon said. "And he encouraged me not to go into [the plumbing business]."
Despite the often hard physical services Maddon's father performed, he always had time for his son.
"When he got home from work, regardless of the time of year, we'd do something," Maddon said. "In the winter time, when it was too cold outside, we'd shoot baskets inside. During the summer time, we'd play catch, or he'd throw me batting practice any time I wanted him to. He had a great hook shot. He was very proud of his hook shot. And he had a good arm. He was able to throw to me."
Maddon said his father was a "man's man," never missed work and never got sick.
"He'd get up in the morning, and my mom would make him breakfast, and he'd go downstairs and start his day. And he'd come back around 5 or 6 that night," Maddon said. "My mom would have dinner on the table, and he never, ever was in a bad mood. He always smiled, and we never had a lot, but we weren't poor.
"And he just had this way about him. He was unique. Because I think a lot of people doing what he was doing would come home and not be so happy sometimes. ... Everybody liked him, because you always knew he would be fun to be around."
In addition to being fun to be around, Maddon's father was one of the most capable people the Rays skipper has ever been around.
"He was a plumber by trade, but he could fix cars," Maddon said. "He helped my cousin build his house. Electrical stuff, he could do that also. He was able to do anything. He took the engine out of his truck and put a new engine in. He'd never done it before, because what he would do as he was taking something apart, he would draw a picture so he could put it back together.
"He was not afraid to try anything new or different. I always respected him for that. He was capable of doing anything as far as I was concerned."
Maddon's father set quite an example for his son, teaching him about hard work and the value of being passionate about one's pursuits. But Maddon might respect his father most for the way he loved his mother.
"I've thought about that a lot, the relationship my mom and my dad had. I've never seen a relationship like that between a man and a woman," Maddon said. "My mom goes to my dad's grave almost every day. Their relationship was special. It's unique."
Joseph Anthony Maddon died April 15, 2002.
"I'll always remember that day," Maddon said.
A lingering sadness can be detected in Maddon's voice, but a spirit fueled by happy memories remains in the son. And when it comes to happy memories for Maddon, growing up in a happy family ranks at the top of the list.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.