The marketing people at Dos Equis blew it. They chose that dorky-looking guy as their new "most interesting man in the world," when they should have taken Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Like the new guy, Maddon surely could kick a coconut through a goalpost made of giraffes. Maddon is a renaissance man, he is eclectic, he mixes old and new school, he owns a restaurant, he helped save his hometown by bringing together all races and colors, he knows all about wine and music. President Obama recently called Maddon "the coolest guy ever," when he showed up at the White House in January with a wild sport coat and no tie. He owns eight vintage cars and he reads incessantly, which explains how he used the words intrinsic, intuitive and ameliorate in a postgame media conference during the 2008 World Series, and in this story, he used the word "transmogrified" in a complete sentence.
Joe Maddon is The Most Interesting Man in the World. Stay thirsty, Cub fans.
What have you learned from the restaurant business after opening the restaurant Ava in Tampa, Florida?
Maddon: You learn to have a lot of respect for the fire marshal. You learn it's a volatile situation owning a restaurant, 50 percent of the people that start with you aren't there in a month.
What are some of the cool features of the restaurant?
Maddon: We repurposed the windows from an abandoned elementary school in Alabama. They are cool. The big table in the middle of the restaurant we got from Verona, Italy, then we cut the table in half. There's a story behind many of the features. I think people like those stories.
Can you cook?
Maddon: Well, I'm not [Gaston] Gourmand, I'm not that dude, and I don't cook at the restaurant. But I can make sauerkraut and pork. I make spaghetti and meatballs, I got that from my mom. I'm good at palatable pops. I like to sit in the pizza bar across the street from the restaurant and drink coffee and talk to the chefs. I ask them lots of questions. I want to learn.
You are a shot-and-a-beer guy from Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Where did your love of wine come from?
Maddon: I got it from my wife, Jaye. She taught [me] most of what I know. In my late 40s, I started sipping it, and I liked it. So I've transmogrified from beer to wine. With wine, you don't really have to know what you're talking about, you just have to know what you like. I know what I like. I like reds. I like blends. I like California wine, I really like wines from Washington state. I love wines from Spain and Italy. I don't know about French wines at all.
Can you tell the difference between a $50 bottle of wine and a $200 bottle?
Maddon: Sometimes. There are some pretty darn good bottles of wine for $50. I think I can tell that from a bottle of wine that costs $15 or $20. When I was with the Angels, [pitcher] Paul Byrd and I, on road trips, used to have a contest to see who could find the best bottle of wine for less than $25. He beat me with a wine called Sea Smoke. That one won the tournament.
You have music playing every day in your clubhouse. From where did you get your love of music?
Maddon: I was 10. I was riding my bike to Correal Stadium [in Hazleton] when I stopped at my friend Mike Vito's house to shoot pool, and I heard the Stones play "No Satisfaction." It was , and I loved it. Then I started listening all the time. And when I'd ride my bike to Little League games, I would listen to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. That music would get me all jacked up to play. The album was called "Whipped Cream and Other Delights." ... I think that the suggestive album cover also might have attracted a 10-year-old.
What music followed?
Maddon: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Simon and Garfunkel. The Beatles. Springsteen. Growing up, I listened to "Runaway" by Del Shannon so many times, I wore out the record. I would record all of it on my tape recorder, one of those old Channel Makers. Then I would set up more speakers all over our house, it was my version of stereo -- just having more than one speaker made it stereo to me. I'd have wires running all over the house. I can't sing, and I can't play an instrument. But my aunt was a great violin player. My cousins were in Jay and the Americans. My cousin Bobby can really play a 12-string guitar.
Where did your love of books come from?
Maddon: My Uncle Chuck, my dad's brother. He was a voracious reader. So was Uncle Eddie, another of my dad's brothers. Uncle Chuck gave me a copy of "Centennial" by James Michener, and told me, "Read this book." I couldn't put it down. In the minor leagues, on every bus trip, I was always reading a book. It gave me something else to think about. It opened my mind to so many things other than baseball, which is important. So I wiped out everything from Michener, then Robert North Patterson, [Tom] Clancy, Nelson DeMille, Ray Ives and [Pat] Conroy. Back then, in the minor leagues, there was no TV like we have today, there was no Netflix or Hulu. Every night, I would fall asleep reading a book. And I always had a dictionary with me when I read so I understood all of the words.
Did all your reading give you a love of words?
Maddon: Yes. And at Lafayette, I had an English professor there named Sheldon Liebman. He had long hair, he wore it in a ponytail, he had horn-rimmed glasses. He taught me so much. I was a terrible writer then. We had to write eight papers that year, on the first four, I got F's. I would go into his office, and he would help me. He taught me to spread my mind. He taught me to put words together. He was very hard on me. I'm glad he was. And then there was my Uncle Rick. He challenged me on everything I said. Everything. If I used a word incorrectly, he'd crush me. He went to Harvard, he was brilliant. He'd drink Coors Light with VO, and we'd sit and talk and drink. He taught me that in the word "often," the t is silent. He would tell me, "it's pronounced offen." He taught me that when you're talking about the second-best thing in a subject, not the best thing, the word to use is "penultimate." ... So, in 2016, the penultimate team was that great Cleveland Indians team.
You wear some really cool clothing, including during the Cubs' visit to the White House. You were the only one not wearing a tie. Where did your sense of style come from?
Maddon: Hey, the '60s and '70s, man. I hated that badly dressed people were telling me how to dress. Back then, our country had a love affair with polyester, and I hated polyester. I loved cotton. I never understood how wearing a collar signified something important, and I never understood what was wrong with a shirt without a collar. I never understood why wearing a coat and tie was a model of anything. Then you grow up, and you learn some things, but it always bothered me when someone wearing something ridiculous would tell me how to dress. For me it was like, "Leave me alone. Hey man, have you looked in the mirror?" Anyway, the jeans I wear cost more than your sports coat, and more than your slacks.
"It always bothered me when someone wearing something ridiculous would tell me how to dress. ... Anyway, the jeans I wear cost more than your sports coat, and more than your slacks."Joe Maddon on fashion
You have nearly a dozen vintage cars. From where did your love of cars come?
Maddon: I have a '56 Bel Air, a '67 Galaxie. ... I love cars. Where I grew up, in Hazleton, cars were big. We lived in an apartment on a hairpin turn, and in the middle of the night, cars would speed by, just burning rubber. God, it was so cool. My first car was a '53 Chevy, The floor was eaten out, and there was coal under the back seat. Then I got a '65 Galaxie and traded it to my cousin, Richie Tombaso, for a '65 T-Bird, which I drove to Florida [from Hazleton]. Every time I stopped for gas, I had to put oil in it. It burned oil as much as it burned gas.
Does being so diverse help you as a manager?
Maddon: It's liberal arts, man. That's why I went to Lafayette for a liberal arts education. The more well-rounded you are, the better. I want the Cubs to be a liberal arts baseball team, one that's good at running the bases, fundamentals, defense, all the things that make you complete. Michener always said not to decide what you want to do until you are 26 years old. He didn't start writing until he was 40. He wants you to create a better base for your mind.
What is HIP?
Maddon: It's the Hazleton Integration Project. My wife is behind it all. All this other stuff we're talking about here is fun, but this is the jewel, it's the whole point of what we do. To effect change on social issues, to integrate people and bring them together, is important. In our country today -- and this worries me -- if you disagree with someone, then you have to be wrong, and you have to dislike that person. When did that begin? Hey, bring me the other opinion, I want to hear the other side. We are doing that in Hazleton, trying to bring different opinions together. We want to set an example for all of northeast Pennsylvania. It is happening.
Have you seen the new Dos Equis commercials?
Maddon: The new guy looks like the caveman from the Geico commercials. But I would love to do a Dos Equis commercial. They are so good. They are so funny.