Chicago Cubs skipper Joe Maddon won the 2015 National League Manager of the Year Award, getting 18 of 30 first-place tallies and 124 total points from Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters.
This is the third time Maddon has won a Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA, having gotten the honor previously as skipper of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 and 2011.
Maddon led the Cubs to a 97-65 record in the regular season — an improvement of 24 wins over Chicago’s total in 2014 — and their first postseason appearance since 2008. The Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game and defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Division Series before losing to the New York Mets in the NL Championship Series.
This was Maddon’s first season as manager of the Cubs after nine years as skipper of the Rays. He got his managerial start in the Angels organization, including a one-year stint as skipper of the Peoria Chiefs. His 1984 Chiefs team finished with a 66-73 record.
He was asked about managing in Peoria during his pregame Q&A before Game 1 of the NLDS. Here’s what he said:
Mr. Vonachen, Pete and I were really good buddies. Pete was the owner of the ball club there in Peoria. I was never treated so well in the minor leagues as I was treated by the Vonachen family. Gave me a really nice car to drive, put me in Guy Hoffman’s house. Guy Hoffman was a pitcher at that time, I think with the White Sox. I lived in Guy’s pad during the summer, but Peoria, I have nothing but warm fuzzies, about his wife, Donna. I mean Pete just passed away recently. I’ve never been treated so well.
So that really stands out about it, Pete coming into the office often, and I always compared him to Steinbrenner, which he really loved; always trying to influence my lineup. But it was about the friendliness of the people, the ballpark. Dewey was a Bradley University head coach. Phil Theobald, the sportswriter there, tremendous guy, but it’s the whole experience there. Steak ‘n Shake was my favorite, and the butterfly pork chop sandwich from Rocky’s. So there’s all these things, Vonachen’s Junction, all that stuff about Peoria, really, really very dear to my heart, but it was all based on the Vonachen family, and primarily Pete.
Vonachen died on June 10, 2013. I wrote a personal tribute to him that you can read here.
The “Dewey” referred to by Maddon is Dewey Kalmer, who was the groundskeeper at Meinen Field (where the Chiefs played at that time) and the baseball coach at nearby Bradley University.
Theobald wrote about sports for the Journal Star for three decades that included 12 years covering Peoria’s Midwest League team, which was originally called the Suns.
And Maddon was correct that Hoffman was pitching for the White Sox organization in 1984. Hoffman started his playing career in the Midwest League, making seven appearances (four starts) for the 1978 Appleton Foxes. He went 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA, collected two saves, struck out 31 and walked 15 batters in 34 innings. He made two more appearances for the Foxes in 1979, notching a save and four strikeouts in five innings.
Maddon also played in the Midwest League, as a catcher for the 1976 Quad City Angels. He batted .294 with 22 RBI in 50 games. The MWL Prospect of the Year in 1976 was current Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who hit .235 with 19 HR and 89 RBI in 127 games with the Waterloo Royals.