Jon Durr/Getty Images Joe Maddon

With his irreverent personality, laid-back approach and penchant for the unexpected, Joe Maddon is a singular presence among Major League Baseball managers. Whether he's bringing clowns and live bear cubs to spring training or leading the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series victory in 108 years, Maddon is always one to watch. In Try Not to Suck, ESPN's Jesse Rogers and's Bill Chastain explore the mystique that makes Maddon so popular with players and analysts alike.

In the fall of 2014, Wrigley Field had begun a much-needed and anticipated renovation project, so when the Cubs wanted to introduce their new, charismatic manager to an excited fan base they had to find a different venue. A month later they would hold a news conference for free agent signee Jon Lester at a swanky downtown restaurant named Spiaggia. They would use the same venue after outfielder Jason Heyward signed on during the next off-season. But Spiaggia was just too fancy for the self-described "shot-and-a-beer" guy Maddon. At least that's how the story is told in hindsight, though the Cubs insist they had Maddon's personality partly in mind when choosing the venue.

Joe Maddon On Try Not To Suck Book Cover

Team brass landed on the Cubby Bear, an establishment located kitty corner to Wrigley Field, just steps from the stadium's marquee. It's the quintessential shot-and-a-beer joint, right down to the sticky floors. Fans had been congregating at the Cubby Bear before and after Cubs games for too many years to remember, and it fit right in with the laid-back style of the new skipper.

"When Theo told me we were going to the Cubby Bear and then he described the Cubby Bear to me, I thought, This is absolutely perfect," Maddon said. "I knew that would permit me to relax even more.

"I thought, Man, this is like being back home. Then we walked in the back door and it had the familiar bar-room smells."

Maddon often says he enjoys a bar-room argument as much as the next guy. Now he was sitting in a place where his decisions would undoubtedly be second guessed from that moment until he was done managing the team. It was the appropriate room for the man that didn't even wear a tie to the White House after winning the World Series.
"All I remember is we didn't have a function room that size, because of all the renovations that were going underway," Theo Epstein said. "We talked about maybe doing it back where we did Lester's, but that seemed a little ... I don't want to use the word 'stuffy' because it wasn't. Maybe overly formal for Joe. And then we had the idea of one of the local bars and when I threw that out to Joe he seemed pretty excited about it for obvious reasons."

Jed Hoyer thinks the team got lucky, as only later did he fully realize what a perfect venue the bar was for Maddon.

Joe Maddon Hired As Cubs Manager     

"I think it fit his personality, but we didn't know him as well at the time," Hoyer said. "I don't know if other venues were even an option. It was just born of necessity. We had no place to do a real press conference."

For Maddon, it was second nature. Sit in a bar and talk baseball. How hard is that? He knew the significance, however, of the challenge he was undertaking. He preaches living in the present but even he understood the job he was taking was no ordinary baseball gig.
"How about this? I'm sitting at the table back there and there's one window I can see out of, and there's the Wrigley Field marquee with my name on it. That was crazy. It just hit me. It was fabulous. You have to give Theo and whomever credit because they understood me enough to do it there."

Joe MaddonEpstein can't remember all of the details from that day but he knows they made the right decision on a manager and where to introduce him. It simply fit the guy he was hiring.

"Yeah, it was great," Epstein said. "It smelled like beer."
To top off the day, at the end of the press conference, as Maddon was getting up to leave, he grabbed the microphone, speaking to the assembled media. "Where's the bartender?" he said. "I got the drinks right now. One round is on me."
As he turned to leave, he grabbed the mic again. "That's a shot and a beer. That's the Hazleton way."

-- Excerpted by permission from Try Not To Suck: The Exceptional, Extraordinary Baseball Life of Joe Maddon by Bill Chastain And Jesse Rogers. Copyright (c) 2018. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Follow Bill Chastain on Twitter @wwchastain. Follow Jesse Rogers on Twitter @ESPNChiCubs.

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