I was falling asleep on Interstate 80 after about two hours of driving through the mountains in Pennsylvania during my road trip to Illinois, so I hit the exit for coffee and donuts at Hazleton.
"Why does the name of this town sound familiar?" I wondered. "Aha!"
The Chicago Tribune has published many an article about Joe Maddon's charity work in his hometown.
So, I decided to try to find some markers commemorating what must be Hazleton's most famous boy. I stopped at the Dunkin Donuts and asked the local boys for some guidance.
"Any signs or monuments for Maddon around town?"
They directed me to the high school. I found the sign in the pic there.
Madden has become quite the matinee idol in Chicago. He unexpectedly took the Cubs to the National League Championship Series last year, just short of making the World Series. He's a laid back 60s hippie. The young players on the team seem to idolize him as a father figure.
I attended a Cubs' game at Wrigley. When the Cubs were about to take the field, the PA announcer intoned: "And now, let's hear it for Joe Maddon's Chicago Cubs!"
I wonder how long the honeymoon will last for Maddon in Chicago? Lou Piniella and Dusty Baker were celebrated as saviors who would end the curse, too. But, the media and the fans turned on both when they failed to deliver a championship.
For now, Maddon is riding high and pulling down $5 million a year in the most glamorous job in Chicago. A great life story for a boy from a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania.
I'm a small town boy... Watseka, Illinois, population 5,500. Hazleton boasts about 25,000 souls. Back when I was a kid, I would have considered that a big city.