By Corey Gottlieb / MLB.comWhen Joe Maddon paired a white mohawk with his thick-rimmed black specs at the start of the postseason, he did aesthetic justice to his eclectic managerial identity.
Maddon has infused in his position a unique combination of free will and professorial wisdom. He is a wine connoisseur, a Springsteen connoisseur, a "Godfather" connoisseur, a mountain biking connoisseur, a connoisseur of all things literary and historical. He knows a lot about a lot.
Neither exclusively philosophical nor overtly rational, he is baseball's genetically reengineered version of Ron Paul. Maddon is an outspoken proponent of laissez-faire coaching, often ditching conservative National League tactics like situational bunting and allowing his players to steal bases at will.
"I'm not big on rules," the skipper told MLB.com. "I don't believe in legislating how you're supposed to act. Have some integrity about what you're doing and we don't have to have any rules around here."
That is not to say he remains entirely hands-off when it comes to in-game strategy.
It was Maddon who instituted the famed Big Papi shift; Maddon who instructed his switch-hitters to bat right-handed against righty starter Mike Mussina; Maddon who told Grant Balfour to intentionally walk slugger Josh Hamilton with the bases loaded in the ninth inning of the Texas-Tampa Bay game on Aug. 17. It was Maddon who, most recently, transformed the confusingly black-and-white mantra of "nine equals eight" into household lore.
But it was also Joe Maddon who, according to legend, insisted on grilling hot dogs at midnight during a recent Christmas celebration in his hometown of Hazleton, Pa. It is there in Hazleton, surrounded by the people he's known for decades, that the field general becomes simply "Broad Street Joe," a small-town boy with definitively blue-collar roots.
"He'd get up in the morning," Maddon told MLB.com, "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 and he never, ever was in a bad mood."
The soft-spoken smile that defined Joe's father was counterbalanced by the unremitting energy of Beanie, his mother. An animated 75-year-old with a sharp sense of humor, Beanie speaks fondly of the bond between her son and her late husband; in fact, she has gone so far as to twice replace the sticker on her husband's headstone, first when Joe left the Angels for Tampa Bay and then when the club became the just plain Rays.
Beanie also still works four days a week at Third Base Luncheonette, a hoagie hot spot in Hazleton owned by Dave Mishinski, Joe's cousin. In one corner of the shop resides a case dedicated to the manager, which includes a replica pair of glasses among its mementos. Clearly, this town knows where its loyalties lie.
So too does Joe Maddon, whose unpredictability is offset by his unwavering ties to the community that knows him best.
Corey Gottlieb is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.