Pa. natives Ditka, Maddon claim common ground—with more to come?

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Mike Ditka before a Cubs game in 2005.

The 1985 Bears? Or the 2016 Cubs (so far)?

It might have been the only thing Mike Ditka and Joe Maddon didn’t discuss at dinner Sunday night during their conversations about their sports and professions, Maddon said before the Cubs’ series opener against the San Diego Padres on Monday night was postponed by rain.

“We talked a little about the Super Bowl,” Maddon said. “We talked about defense – the 46 defense and how it worked. He watches our games, knows everything that’s going on and asked how [injured Kyle] Schwarber was doing. Very much aware. Very much alive.”

For all the mythology surrounding Coach Ditka’s 18-1 Bears champion and how deeply a place in the fabric of Chicago sports history it holds, Maddon’s team that is off to the best 30-game start (24-6) in the majors since the 1984 Tigers (26-4), already is inspiring visions of making its own history.

Their plus-102 run differential is second only to the 1902 Pirates (plus-112) through 30 games in history. And they’re 9-1 against the three projected contenders they’ve faced so far (St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Washington).

But it seems the dinner companions had more to say about their home state of Pennsylvania during their “entertaining” evening at Ditka’s downtown restaurant than historical comparisons.

“We have the same kind of background, growing up, we like the same kind of foods, he likes red wine,” Maddon said. “Just good conversation between football and baseball, and what he has done in the past, and what’s going on here now – real easy.

“He’s just a tough old football guy, man. And I know a lot of guys like him. So the conversation’s very easy.”

Notes:Catcher Miguel Montero (back) has been cleared to start a minor-league rehab assignment this week and could be looking at a return from the DL this weekend against Pittsburgh. …Ben Zobrist was named co-player of the week (with the Mets’ Bartolo Colon) in the National League after going 9-for-25 with four homers, five walks and a major-league-leading 15 RBIs during the Cubs’ 7-0 run through the Pirates and Nationals. “I’ve seen this guy for a long time, and what he did this last week was as good as I’ve ever seen him,” Maddon said. …The Cubs seems puzzled and amused by the over-the-top reaction and outrage to all the walks issued to Bryce Harper to keep the Nationals’ lone star hitting threat from beating them last four games (see Barry Bonds 1992-2007): “It was just the strategy of the game based on how they built their group,” Maddon said. “The best way I can put it is I did not do anything to them.”


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