More than 30 years ago, Joe Maddon left small-town Hazleton, Pa., to chase
a big-league career. The journey took him far away, but the town and the man
hold each other close.
By MARC TOPKIN
[Times photos: Edmund Fountain]
Joe Maddon's 73-year-old mother, Beanie, spends 6 1/2 hours a day, four
days a week at Third Base, where she has worked for the past 56 1/2 years.
The community showed its pride in Joe Maddon by naming the baseball field
at the new high school after him in 2003. This field is part of the Little
League complex overlooking the town. It has a sign expressing pride in
Joe Maddon jokes that in certain parts of Hazleton, such as Main, er Broad
Street, you wouldn't know what decade it was if you took the cars off the
The Third Base luncheonette, which bills itself as "The Next Best Place to
Home," was opened in 1949 by Joe Maddon's aunt and uncle and hasn't
changed much since then, serving many of the same customers over the
HAZLETON, Pa. - They stop his mom to ask how he's doing. They hang his picture
on the walls, and his name on the high school baseball field. They stay up
late to follow his team's games on their televisions, satellite radios and
They talk - as passionately as anyone around Tampa Bay - about his Rays'
chances, discuss the lack of pitching and debate what managerial maneuvers he
Tampa Bay area fans still may be making up their minds about Joe Maddon, but
the folks in this hard-edged northeastern Pennsylvania coal-mining town know
Maddon as one of their own.
And they love him.
"We're just totally proud of that guy," said Jack Seiwell, one of Maddon's
youth football coaches and a longtime family friend. "All you hear around here
is Joe Maddon, Joe Maddon, Joe Maddon."
The affection and attention accorded Maddon is not unusual for a small-town,
schoolboy sports star, which Maddon was on Hazleton's football fields and
But what is remarkable is that although times in this tight-knit community
have changed considerably, the feelings for Maddon have not.
It doesn't matter that he moved away more than 30 years ago. Or that he never
made it to the major leagues as a player. Or that he spent nearly 20 years
working his way through the minors, and the last dozen working on the other
side of the country as a big-league coach with the Angels.
"I think Joe represents what's good about Hazleton," said Willie Forte, a
close friend since childhood. "It's the spirit of Hazleton. It's a very caring
Hazleton has always loved Joe because he's always been the competitor. He
always came through. Or he went down trying as hard as he could. I think
that's why people always follow him. He was like a hometown hero."
So when Maddon was hired in Tampa Bay, Hazleton Little League officials put up
a big sign thanking the Rays and saying how proud they were. When Maddon made
his managerial debut in Baltimore last month, it wasn't just headline news,
but a front-page story in the local paper and a big deal on TV.
When the Rays play in nearby Philadelphia
busloads of fans from
Hazleton will be there, and Maddon probably will try to greet every one of
"He never forgets Hazleton," said Don Carlyon, a youth league teammate. "And
Hazleton will never forget him for that reason."
Joseph John James Maddon got his patience, his
positive outlook and his good nature from his father. Joseph Anthony Maddon
was a gentle, quiet,
hard-working plumber who died in 2002 at age 82, six months before his son
would fulfill their common dream by winning a World Series, as an Angels
"He was so laid-back and relaxed," said Ron Maddon, a cousin. "A ton of bricks
could fall on his head and he'd say, "Okay, what do we do?' He never had a bad
word to say about anybody. He was a very special man.
"That's where Joe gets it from."
But Maddon got his more, um, colorful side from his mother, Beanie, a
73-year-old dynamo who still works four days a week, still drives around town,
still brags about her son and still leaves people quaking in her wake.
"I was the witch," Beanie said, and proudly.
Most of the stories about Joe's childhood are good ones; about him playing
nice with younger sister Carmine (pronounced CAR-mean) Parlatore and brother
Mark, about hosting friends at what was essentially a seven-days-a-week open
But when there wasn't a happy ending, such as when Joe "borrowed" a few
dollars a neighbor left out for a deliveryman, or when he dropped the carton
of milk he cavalierly tossed around the green-carpeted living room, it usually
ended with Beanie having the final say.
"Her words were threat enough," Carmine said.
If for some reason they weren't, Beanie - born Albina Klocek, one of 13
children, on Jan. 1, 1933 - wasn't shy about using a wooden spoon or a paddle
"Beanie was the tough one," Ron Maddon said.
During a Rays game last month, Maddon showed his displeasure with a call, and
the TV cameras made it clear he no longer was speaking politely or patiently.
"He has a little bit of his mom in him," Ron Maddon said. "You saw that on TV
last night when you read his lips."
Beanie, who lives in the same apartment where she raised the three kids,
tries to watch the Rays most nights with the DirecTV package Joe bought
her. She'll yell and scream at the TV, and when things get too tense, she'll
flip the channel or leave the room - though she usually ends up peeking in
from around the corner.
Her pride in Joe's achievements is obvious, from the memorabilia around her
apartment to the conversation as she whirls around town, where few people
don't know who she, or her son, is.
If the Rays give him the chance, Beanie said she is sure Joe will have
"It'll come," she said. "He knows what he is striving for. He will succeed. Or
I'll choke him."
Third Base, close to home
The Maddon family compound - the four-family apartment building above the old
C. Maddon & Sons plumbing shop - is a nondescript building on E 11th Street.
And a short way from home, of course, is Third Base.
The classic luncheonette, open since 1949 and barely changed, is the social
center of Maddon's Hazleton.
It's the place where Beanie works 7:30-2 Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and
Fridays, doing a little bit of everything, as she has for the past 561/2
"It keeps her going; it keeps her young," said owner Dave Mishinski, who took
over the Base from his father and mother, who was Beanie's sister. "She knows
more about the business than I do. If she wasn't here I don't know what we'd
It's the place where the Mishinski family makes the increasingly famous
sandwich that is Maddon's ultimate comfort food, the $3.25 Cold-Cut Hoagie
(with extra hot pepper spread), and sells more than 50 dozen on a good day.
It's the place where there is character, and there are characters.
"It's like a Cheers, something like that," Mishinski said. "Everybody knows
everybody. And if you didn't know any better you'd think they were going to
kill each other."
Any time - weekday lunch, Saturday breakfast, Saturday afternoon (when the
area funeral directors drive over after work in the hearses and limos) - there
is a good chance the conversation at the 20-stool counter involves the Devil
Rays and their manager.
Order off the menu on the wall, take a Farmers' iced tea carton out of the
cooler, grab some penny candy from the case below the shelf with the small
Maddon shrine, and sit.
But you better know your stuff. This may be Phillies and Yankees country, but
the topics aren't much different than they would be at Ferg's or Skyway Jack's
or El Cap or any place around Tampa Bay.
What are they going to do about their pitching? Are they going to spend any
money? Will Joey have a real chance?
Growing up in Hazleton in the 1950s, '60s and '70s was different. With the
Maddons' extended Polish-Italian family and an ever-widening circle of
friends, their doors, hearts and lives were always open.
The Maddon children didn't have much, but they didn't know any different and
didn't want for anything. Life was what it was, and you made the best of it.
"I'm from Hazleton, P-A," he said after one particularly tough night in
Boston. "You learn to expect the worst."
"It's true," Carmine said. "It's instilled in you. You think the worst first
and then everything's okay."
But that didn't stop Maddon and his buddies from having a good time, whether
it was playing a game, chowing down on hot peppers or cruising for girls in
their beat-up cars.
"You name it, we competed at it," said Jeff Jones, one of his closest pals.
A recent dinner gathering of Maddon's old friends, coaches and relatives turns
into an hourslong storyfest, with repeated tales of how much trouble they
tried to get into - and how Maddon would keep them from it.
"There's not too much to write on Joe being bad," said longtime friend Dave
Cassarella, who owns Casamato's Famiglia Ristorante, another place where
Maddon's picture and autograph are on display. "Joe was a good boy. You know -
All-American, apple pie, baseball, that whole bit? That's Joe."
Many of the kids Maddon grew up with had nicknames. Carlyon was Chubby, cousin
Frank Maddon was Bumba, Mike Macejko was Magic.
But Joe Maddon? He was a good enough quarterback to occasionally be called
Broad Street Joe in reference to Broadway Joe Namath, but to most people he
was the Monsignor ("Because he wouldn't say a curse word," Ron Maddon said) or
"One reason I didn't go bad was because he was my friend," said Forte, his
childhood buddy. "I had a tendency to be a little bit on the edge, but Joe was
the straight-laced one and he kept me on the right side.
"There isn't a bad bone in him. He was really a perfect kid. I know that
sounds kind of strange, but he was. If you have a son, you want him to be just
Joe's strong personality surfaced early, when he was a 10-year-old quarterback
on the State Trooper Eagles midget football team, and grew from there. "He was
special then, and he was a winner," said Seiwell, who coached the team with
Richie Rabbitz and stays in contact with Maddon. "You could see the leadership
in that kid."
He also had the ability to recognize talent.
Before heading out one 1973 night Maddon insisted Forte, who split his time
between playing sports and playing in rock bands, listen to a new album,
The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.
"He told me, "You have to hear this guy,' " Forte recalled. "He's telling me:
"This guy is going to be the best. His name is Bruce Springsteen. He's from
Jersey. He's going to be on top of the charts.
You're going to end up doing some of his music one day.' "
Maddon was right on both counts. Springsteen seems to have done okay. And
Forte is in his 26th year singing and playing keyboards as a founding member
of the B-Street Band, which is the world's longest running Springsteen tribute
"So now I've got this hanging over my head, that Joe introduced me to
Springsteen," Forte said. "It's a terrible thing to live with. And, trust me,
he has plenty of good ways to remind me."
No place like home
As much as friends and relatives are living vicariously through Maddon, he
tries to stay a part of their lives back in Hazleton, too.
He calls home once a week. He makes annual visits and, in 2003, bought a huge
Victorian house that his sister and brother-in-law live in. He makes time for
hometown friends when they visit him on the road. He practically seeks out
Hazletonians in the stands before games.
And he talks frequently about his roots, introducing the Tampa Bay area to his
favorite people, favorite places such as Casamato's and Bellhop's, and
favorite delicacies such as Third Base hoagies and Senape's pitza.
When Francis Libonati, one of his high school teachers, was hired as a
principal after 35 years in the classroom, Maddon was among the first to
congratulate him. When Maddon got the chance to be the Angels' interim
manager, he called his high school baseball coach, Ed Morgan, from the dugout.
When the Angels won the World Series, Maddon came back for a reception, which
drew more than 400 people and raised about $8,000 for a scholarship in his
late father's name, driving cross-country to personally deliver a new car he
bought for his mother.
As much as Maddon's friends and relatives work to keep up with him, he feels
it is important to do the same.
"We've all always been close. There's a tightness there. It's all about how we
grew up and how we were raised," Maddon said. "Honestly, I can't imagine a
better place to grow up. With the attention paid to you, you always felt like
someone cared about you."
Maddon, 54, is occasionally
overwhelmed and often humbled by the level of admiration. He was taken aback
when they named the new Hazleton Area High baseball field for him in 2003,
requesting that there not be a dedication ceremony. He reacted the same way at
the suggestion of a nomination to the Northeastern Pennsylvania Sports Hall of
"He didn't feel like he deserved it," Carmine said. "He said he didn't
accomplish enough in his career.
That's the type of guy he is."
And that may be part of the appeal, too.
When Maddon returned for a few weeks at Christmas, with girlfriend Jaye
Sousoures in tow and a new job in Tampa Bay ahead, he was both a popular
attraction - an "informal" gathering at Casamato's drew more than 100 people -
and target, and he took it all.
He gets teased about his spiked gray hair, the funky retro glasses and the
California-cation of his lifestyle - sipping wine, watching his diet and
sporting what teenage cousin Autumn Mishinski called the "Armani skier" look.
"He comes in California, but he leaves Hazleton," Carmine said. "It takes a
couple days for him to get back to Joey. He comes in Joseph, he leaves Joey."
And as any good baseball man would, he knows where home is.
"People ask me where I'm from, and it's always Hazleton," Maddon said.
"Hazleton. That's where I'm from. That's me."