Minors matters: Maddon reflects on early days

Cubs' manager shares memories of managing Class A Peoria in 1984

Minors matters: Maddon reflects on early days

ST. LOUIS -- In 1984, Joe Maddon was offered a Minor League job managing the Angels' Class A team in Peoria, Ill., and he took it. The Cubs' skipper still has fond memories of his days there.

"I was never treated so well in the Minor Leagues as I was treated by the Vonachen family," Maddon said Friday of the Peoria team's ownership group, which was headed by Pete Vonachen. "He 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. I've never been treated so well."

Game Date Results
Gm 1 Oct. 9 STL 4, CHC 0
Gm 2 Oct. 10 CHC 6, STL 3
Gm 3 Oct. 12 CHC 8, STL 6
Gm 4 Oct. 13 CHC 6, STL 4

Maddon said he would call Vonachen "George Steinbrenner," and the Peoria team's owner loved the comparison.

Maddon would dine at Steak 'n Shake, ordering a double-double with everything, and he ate butterfly pork chop sandwiches from Rocky's in Peoria.

"There's all these things, all that stuff about Peoria, that's really, really very dear to my heart, but it was all based on the Vonachen family, and primarily Pete," Maddon said.

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Pete Vonachen died at the age of 87 in June 2013, but his son, Rocky, still runs the Minor League team, which was a Cubs affiliate from 1985-95, and again from 2005-12. It's now the Cardinals' Class A affiliate.

Maddon said he picked Peoria because he liked the idea of being in the Midwest. He grew up a Cardinals fan, listening to games on KMOX radio. What did he learn in the Minors that he still applies today?

"To take chances, I think, primarily," Maddon said. "The beautiful part about working -- whether it was in Idaho Falls or Salem, Oregon, or Peoria or Midland or beyond, you could take chances, meaning that you tried different things during the course [of the season]."

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It could've been using a five-man infield, or having runners going, only to end up with the batter hitting into a triple play. He got a feel for when to remove pitchers.

"I'm telling you, I will think about those things in game situations here now, so the Minor Leagues, to me, I'm so grateful that I have had that much time to spend there and the people that I spent it with, because it really matters," Maddon said. "It may not work all the time, but at least you know what you think you would like to do."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.