Monday, January 5, 2015

Interview Part 2: Morris Madden, Very Exciting

Morris Madden moved to the Tigers system for 1986, playing that year at AA in Glens Falls, NY's East Field. By June 1987, he was in the majors. Photo is of East Field in 2014. (Greatest 21 Days)
Part 1: Didn't Quit | Part 2: Very Exciting
Part 3: Was There | Part 4: His Calling

Morris Madden was in his apartment in Toledo when the call came. It was his manager. Madden needed to get back to Toledo's Ned Skeldon Stadium.

Once Madden arrived, his manager Leon Roberts relayed the news: Madden was going to the majors.

"The trainer drove me up from Toledo," Madden recalled of that trip to up Detroit. "I didn't have a chance to do much. I just got there, unpacked, had a ham and cheese sandwich and a Coke and went to the ballpark. It was exciting. It was very exciting."

Madden got that call in his ninth professional season - and two seasons after he almost quit the game. It was only talks with his family that kept him going.

"It was surreal, I just couldn't believe that I was there and I had on a Tiger uniform," Madden recalled.

Madden spoke to The Greatest 21 Days by phone recently from his home in Charlotte, N.C., where he now heads up a youth baseball program. That program, Carolinas Metro Inc., has become Madden's passion, helping kids succeed in life.
Ned Skeldon Stadium in Toledo in 2011. Morris Madden played at The Ned in 1987. (Greatest 21 Days)
Madden covered his own career, from growing up in South Carolina to playing in college and the pros, including the time he spent in the majors.

Madden ended up with a total of 16 major league appearances over those three seasons, seeing time with both the Detroit Tigers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In one of those seasons, he saw just 5.2 innings of work, but he didn't give up a run.

Madden's pro career began in 1979, taken by the Dodgers in the 24th round of the draft out of Spartanburg Methodist College in South Carolina.

The first stop for the native of Laurens, S.C.? Canada. Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, to be exact.

Madden recalled that, as an 18-year-old, he not only had to adjust to life away from home and life in the minors, but he was in a whole different latitude. He was in a whole different country.

"It was a culture shock. It was a culture shock for me," Madden said. "My first year consisted of going to the park, playing a game and then going home, eating and watching television. That's it."

He got homesick during those three months in the Pioneer League, he recalled, but he also focused on what he needed to do. "I just tried to learn what I needed to do to get where I needed to be," he said.

Madden ended that first season with a 6-1 record and a 2.93 ERA in 13 starts. He also struck out 106 in 83 innings.
Morris Madden played at AA Vermont with the Reds in 1985. Photo is of Centennial in 2011. (Greatest 21 Days)
Helping him stay focused was his family, including his parents and brothers, as well as the high school sweetheart who became his wife, Sandra.

"I had a strong support system that kept reminding me of the opportunity I had in front of me," Madden said. "They helped a long the way."

Madden and his wife have been married now for 31 years and have one daughter. Those early years, Sandra frequently visited Madden, but it wasn't until later that she could spend the full summer with him.

Madden spent his second season a little closer to home, at single-A Vero Beach in the Florida State League. He returned there in 1981. He also got four starts at AA San Antonio. 

He went 11-9 in 1980, but just 6-15 in 1981. After his stint in San Antonio didn't work out, Madden was back at Vero Beach with manager Stan Wasiak.

Madden recalled that, upon his return to Vero Beach, Wasiak commented that he expected Madden to be in the majors in a couple years, but Madden was back at Vero Beach.

"That kind of pushed me a little harder," Madden said. "I knew what I had to do."

From 1980 through 1985, though, Madden spent large portions of five out of those six years in the Florida State League.

Morris Madden learned of his call-up at Toledo's Ned Skeldon Stadium in 1987. Photo is of the stadium in 2011. (Greatest 21 Days)
He spent the sixth largely in California at Lodi. He saw time at AA in three of those years, including 27 appearances at San Antonio in 1983. He had a 5.47 ERA there.

Madden recalled the talent in the Dodgers organization making it tough to move. So, when free agency came before the 1984 season, he signed on with the Reds. He also found himself back in Florida, playing at Tampa.

"We got kind of tired of visiting Florida," Madden said. "Those were long years we spent down there, but it was worth it."

It was in his second year with the Reds, back at Tampa in 1985, that Madden's father and Madden's wife played their role in keeping Madden playing. Madden wanted to quit, but both argued that he wasn't a quitter. So, he continued on.

He soon left Florida and single-A behind. He got six outings at AA Vermont in 1985. He then signed on with the Tigers for 1986, playing at AA Glens Falls.

It was also around that time that his wife was able to travel and spend more time with him as he played. "If she wouldn't have done that, I don't think I would have continued to play."

Madden recalled moving to the Tigers because they seemed to guarantee him a spot at AA, while the Reds didn't seem so certain.

By then, Madden was a reliever. At Glens Falls, he got into 35 outings, starting eight. He ended with a 7-5 record and a 4.04 ERA. He then moved up to AAA Toledo in 1987. In 24 outings, seven starts there, he had a 4.47 ERA.

It was in June 1987 that Madden got his call to the majors. His first calls were to his wife and then his parents. Of his wife's reaction, Madden said, "she was ecstatic." (Part 3)

Part 1: Didn't Quit | Part 2: Very Exciting
Part 3: Was There | Part 4: His Calling

Go to Part 3: Morris Madden, Was There

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