This year’s World Series pits two former Midwest League managers against each other — Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Cleveland Indians skipper Terry Francona.
Maddon made his managerial debut in 1981, two years after finishing a four-year playing career that included the 1976 season with the Quad Cities Angels. Maddon managed short-season Angels affiliates for three years before taking the helm of the Peoria Chiefs in 1984.
Maddon’s Chiefs team finished with a 66-73 record, good for second place in the Southern Division. (At that time, the Midwest League had three divisions: Southern, Central and Northern. Playoff teams were the three division winners and a wild card.)
Francona’s first managerial job was in the Midwest League, as skipper of the 1992 South Bend White Sox (73-64). The most notable players on that South Bend team were future big-leaguers James Baldwin II and Mike Cameron.
Then-White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk did a one-game rehab stint with South Bend that year. The future Hall-of-Famer homered in his first of three at-bats at Coveleski Stadium (now Four Winds Field), hitting the ball so far it struck a synagogue down the left-field line. That building is now the South Bend Cubs’ team store, and there is a plaque commemorating the Fisk shot on a nearby fence.
Yeah, Cameron & Baldwin were there, but we all rooted for Gas Burton and Charlie Poe. (Couldn’t resist. Francona’s SB Sox weren’t the first MWL team I saw, but they were the first I knew. We had SB ticket packages–Section 100 row 2–for several years.)