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Maddon recalls meeting with Coach Wooden

Posted Jun 5, 2010 by Roger Mooney

Updated Jun 5, 2010 at 06:03 PM

Joe Maddon saw so many of his old friends when the Rays played the Angels in Anaheim last month that he can’t remember who relayed the message, but he certainly remembers the message:

“Coach Wooden passes along his best.”

“I was like, ‘Wow,’ ” Maddon said Saturday before the Rays game with the Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Coach Wooden, of course, is John Wooden, the legendary head basketball coach at UCLA who passed away Friday.

Maddon met Wooden once. It happened when Maddon was the Angels bench coach and Wooden was at Angel Stadium to meet someone else. Wooden waited inside the conference room Maddon used as an office, and the two sat at a table and talked baseball.

“I do remember sitting there and saying to myself, ‘You do know you’re talking to Coach Wooden right now.’ And I could not wait to tell people I’ve done that,” Maddon said.

Maddon does not recall much of the conversation, but he does remember that Wooden treated Maddon as an equal, making the encounter a conversation between two coaches.

“I think that’s what he was thinking at the time, but I’m there, coach to immortal,” Maddon said. “I was too intimidated to ask any pertinent questions. I was just listening.”

Shortly after being named manager of the Rays, Maddon received a copy of Wooden’s book, “Wooden: A lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and off the Court.”

The autographed copy included a brief note from Wooden.

“Which I will always cherish,” Maddon said.

Maddon read the book and highly recommends it to anyone interested in the thought process behind the man voted last year by The Sporting News as the greatest coach of all time.

Maddon recounted one of the best known stories about Wooden, the one how Wooden began the first practice of each season instructing his players how to wear their sweat socks so as not to get blisters, which would force them to miss a game.

“I think that says it all about the guy,” Maddon said. “Talk about a very simple approach, covering the basics from A to Z, but was not a control freak.”

Maddon has had the opportunity to meet a number of famous people during his life in baseball, including baseball immortals Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra.

“I’ve been very fortunate to cross paths with some very cool people,” Maddon said. “He’s at the very top.”


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