The Kansas City Royals have a terrific bullpen. It's out there beyond the rightfield wall at Royals Stadium. It's spacious and clean. It has 10 orange theater seats and a black leather chair for the coach. The regular occupants have an excellent view of the action on the field. On cold nights, select members of the crew can be found seated in the bullpen car listening to the game on the radio. The bathroom is probably the best bullpen lavatory in the league. Not many such facilities are equipped with a mirror to ensure that the relievers are well groomed for those late-inning stints.
By happy fortune, the bullpen is adjacent to a cavernous area beneath the rightfield bleachers used by the grounds crew. That means that the pitchers and catchers can relieve their occasional boredom by checking out the latest tractor, examining the Hanging Gardens of groundskeeper George Toma or reading passages from How To Control Lawn Diseases and Pests. According to Dan Quisenberry, the bullpen's tour guide, the pitchers even come in to borrow the grounds crew's equipment for use in a game.
"You've heard about control artists," says Quisenberry, coming upon the painting supplies. "Well, these are the brushes they use to paint the corners of the plate. This little one here belongs to Larry Gura." Quisenberry goes over to a huge roller. "This one used to belong to Renie Martin."
Quisenberry does more in the bullpen than just give tours. He does crossword puzzles (surreptitiously), plays Password and Name That Tune and provides a Mr. Coffee. He generally keeps the gang amused by, for instance, helping select an All-Star team of players one would be most afraid to room with. When his friend Martin belonged to the Royals, Martin would sing songs relating to the game in progress while Quisenberry played on Renie's protuberant teeth as if they were xylophone keys. But Martin was traded to the Giants in 1982, and, anyway, he had his teeth fixed last year.
Oh, yes. Quisenberry saves games, too. Since 1980, he has saved 105, more than any reliever in that time. Of the '83 Royals' 36 wins through Sunday, Quisenberry had saved 20.
He also saves countless stories for writers looking for an outrageous quote. He can not only finish a game but War and Peace as well. He serves as the Royals' player representative. And because of a strong belief in the Savior, he often leads the team chapel meetings.
All of which is not bad for: a) a skinny kid who wasn't supposed to make the varsity in high school; b) a square dancer; c) a college student who changed his major on an almost daily basis; d) a pitcher who discovered his delivery by accident; e) a free agent who signed with the Royals by accident; f) a starter who became a reliever by accident; g) a submarine pitcher who never thought he would surface; h) a skinny kid who wasn't supposed to make the majors; i) all of the above. "You know," says all of the above's brother, Marty, "Dan has been pitching with men on base his whole life. And not just in games."
Today he's the best relief pitcher in the American League, if not baseball, and if the password were save, Quisenberry would be as good a clue as any. Which is why the Royals' bullpen coach, Jimmie Schaffer, hangs up the phone 100 times a year and says, "The Australian."
That's one of Quisenberry's names. He comes from down under.
THE FIRST INNING
Actually, Quisenberry comes from California. He was born in Santa Monica and was raised in Orange County. The family name, pronounced KWIZ-en-berry, is an English mutation of the German name Questenburg, so don't go foraging in the forest looking for quisenberry bushes because you won't find them.
Dan's mother, Reberta, and father John, divorced when he was seven and Marty was nine, and for a few years, while Reberta worked as a color consultant for Revlon, the brothers developed a close bond—and destroyed a slew of baby-sitters. When Mom remarried, the boys didn't take to their stepfather, Art Meola. "He used to make us work around the house all the time," says Dan. "We were forever changing white rocks into redwood chips or the other way around. We got pretty sassy. We needed to be spanked."
Marty, who looks like Dan and laughs like Dan and is now an assistant pastor at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Claremont, Calif., says, "We went from the playground to boot camp. Our stepfather thought we were lazy, no-good kids, which we probably were, and we thought he was a drill sergeant, so we started developing this cutting, quick sense of humor as protection."
But Art, a North American Rockwell engineer whom the boys grew to love, did save them from the ballroom dancing careers Reberta had in mind for them. He introduced them to sports and even managed Dan's youth baseball team. Although they were never on the same team, the boys played a lot of games together.
Inside they played Strat-O-Matic, a baseball board game, and Dan had an annoying habit of biting the pitcher's card when things were going wrong. Outside, they played Wiffle Ball on a tennis court, imagining it was Fenway or Candlestick, depending on which way the wind was blowing. "When I got to the majors," says Dan, "it was like déj√† vu. There I was facing Carl Yastrzemski and Rico Carty again after all these years. Why should I be scared, after I had already been chased down the street by Harmon Killebrew?"
The brothers also played golf together, miniature and otherwise, and Marty is more surprised at Dan's present golf game—he used to be terrible, but now regularly shoots in the 80s—than he is at his pitching success.
Marty was a better athlete, a submarine pitcher long before Dan dropped down. He played at Orange Coast Community College and Southern California College and was scouted by Rosey Gilhousen of the Royals. But Marty threw his arm out one day and had to stop pitching for a while. A while became seven years.
Dan, too, went to Orange Coast and was the baseball team's MVP his second year, 1973. Ben Hines, the baseball coach at La Verne (Calif.) College, now the University of La Verne, saw him and asked him to enroll, which was fine with Dan because La Verne had an excellent baseball program.
Dan majored in business, religion, sociology, psychology and history. But his most fateful class was square dancing, which was a course that Hines asked his pitchers to take. "I thought it would improve their balance and footwork," says Hines, now a minor league batting instructor with the Angels.
It was in square dancing that Dan met his wife to be, Janie Howard. "Dan was very romantic," says Janie, who was studying to be an elementary school teacher. "His opening line to me was, 'Are you hungry?' When I said I guessed so, he came back with, 'Well, how 'bout a freebie?' "
Love came at about 101st sight. In the meantime, Dan became a very good college pitcher, even though the scouts were more interested in his teammate, John Verhoeven, who went on to pitch for the Twins. "At La Verne, Dan would look up to me," says Verhoeven. "Even when we were both in the American League he would ask me things, and I felt silly telling him because by then the roles had been reversed."
Quisenberry's whimsical nature was evident at La Verne, as Verhoeven, who now operates a baseball school, recalls. "Dan thought he was Harpo Marx," Verhoeven says. "He'd shake hands by offering his leg the way Harpo did."
In his two years at La Verne, Quisenberry was 12-2 and 19-7. His senior year he pitched a remarkable 194 innings and, as a consequence of so much work, dropped his delivery lower and lower until he came sidearm. He was named to the NAIA All-America team. Still, he says, "the scouts were not exactly flocking around the house."
Hines gave Gilhousen a call and asked him if he might be interested in Quisenberry. Gilhousen said yes, there was an opening for a pitcher in Class A at Waterloo, Iowa, but that the kid would have to be at Gilhousen's house within the hour. So Quisenberry drove 10 minutes to Santa Ana in his battered Gremlin, rang the bell, walked in and signed. "I got $500 a month, and the special covenants clause was left blank," he says. "My bonus was a Royals bat that Rosey had in the house, a Royals pen and a Royals lapel button. I was really pretty excited, especially about the lapel button."
On June 22, 1975, after being baptized that morning at a church in Waterloo, Quisenberry made his first professional appearance. He pitched a seven-inning, complete-game 5-3 victory in the opener of a doubleheader against Wausau.
This game was the last one Quisenberry started, not counting one in the winter Mexican League in 1977, which he would like to forget anyway. Waterloo Manager John Sullivan told Quisenberry after the game that he was sending him to the bullpen. "I took it as a demotion," says Quisenberry. "And I hoped some day that I'd be able to get back into the rotation." Sullivan, now a coach with the Blue Jays, says the reason he banished Quisenberry to the pen was because Waterloo had no reliever who could throw strikes. "I figured that was his best chance to make it, but I didn't think he'd ever be in the majors. I'm just glad I was wrong," Sullivan says.
Quisenberry did well enough at Waterloo (2.45 ERA and four saves) to be called up to Double A Jacksonville for eight innings at the end of the season.
The next year he again divided his time between Waterloo and Jacksonville, although Jacksonville came first. He was effective, but nobody in the organization seemed to notice. When the season was over, he and Janie got married. They ended their honeymoon in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where they decided to spend the off-season. They lived in an apartment behind a funeral home. By day, Dan worked in a sporting-goods store. By night, he worked for the funeral home. "Me and another guy would go around picking up dead bodies and throwing them, I'm sorry, putting them in the back of a hearse," he says.
In 1977 Quisenberry pitched solely for Jacksonville, and after the season he and Janie went to Mexico and were perfectly miserable. They were sick the whole time. In 1978, Quisenberry, once more pitching in Jacksonville, saved 15 games and had a 4-2 record and 2.39 ERA. He thought he would be stuck in Double A forever. "I made up my mind that if I didn't get to Triple A that next spring, I was going to quit," he says. "In the winter I went to Fresno Pacific College to get my teaching certificate. That sort of sounds like a cliché, doesn't it? I guess everybody has a story like that."
Quisenberry was sent to Triple A Omaha that spring, thus denying some California high school a strange baseball coach and an even stranger history teacher. In July, In-fielder Jerry Terrell went on the disabled list, opening up a place on the roster, and the Royals, desperate for a relief pitcher, called Quisenberry up to Kansas City.
On July 8, 1979 Quisenberry made his major league debut. On his second pitch he induced Lamar Johnson of the White Sox to ground to Second Baseman Frank White, who started a double play, a scene that would be oft repeated in the next few years.
Still, Quisenberry's arrival was met with some skepticism. "I'd never heard of him," says George Brett. "He looked funny, he threw funny, he was funny, and I wanted to know why we didn't go out and trade for somebody. Now I know."
But it's not clear just who in the Royals' organization knew enough to go with Quisenberry. Some people credit then-Manager Whitey Herzog for his uncanny ability to spot talent, some credit Omaha Manager Gordy MacKenzie, and some credit the Royals' scouting staff. "The truth of the matter is that we didn't have anybody else," says General Manager John Schuerholz, who was vice-president for player personnel at the time. "Necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case, it was the mother of Dan Quisenberry."
Quisenberry did fine right from the start, or, in his case, the relief. He won one game and saved another in a three-game series in Texas on July 22 and 23 and finished the year with five saves, a 3-2 record and a 3.15 ERA. Except for rare ineffective breaking balls, he threw nothing then but sinkers. "The catchers used to come out and ask me to throw different pitches," says Quisenberry, "when all I had was one." Despite his performance, it wasn't guaranteed he'd make the Royals the next spring. In fact, his competition for the short man job would be Martin, who was to become a close friend.
Fate played a hand that winter. At a banquet Jim Frey, who had just taken over as the Royals' manager, ran into the Pirates' submarine reliever, Kent Tekulve, who was fresh from helping Pittsburgh win the World Series. Frey asked Tekulve if he would mind working with Quisenberry during the spring and Tekulve said sure. "I didn't think I needed to change," says Quisenberry, "but I felt I had to submit. Frey wanted me to copy everything Tekulve did. At first, I felt foreign, off-balance, but the coaches said there was better movement on the ball."
Still throwing just his sinker, but with his motion now dropped below sidearm, Quisenberry baffled the American League in much the same way he baffled the Royals' front office. Some of his 1980 stats were bizarre: 128‚Öì innings with only 37 strikeouts; 129 hits but only 27 walks. Some other figures were more telling. He entered 41 games in which the Royals were leading, and they won all but two of them. He led the league in appearances, with 75, and in games finished, with 68, and he tied Rich Gossage of the Yankees for most saves, with 33. Those saves combined with his 12 victories earned him the title of Rolaids Fireman of the Year. And whenever he finished a game with John Wathan catching, Wathan would say, "Way to mix 'em up," and Quisenberry would say, "Way to call 'em."
When the Royals swept the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, Quisenberry got a save and a win. After he saved the second game by getting Graig Nettles to ground into a double play, Quisenberry was surrounded at his locker by the cream of America's sporting press. A reporter asked him, quite seriously, what pitch he used to get Nettles. Quisenberry, deadpan, replied, "An overhand curve." His last pitch was dutifully recorded as an overhand curve, even though he hadn't thrown one in years.
After the 1980 World Series, the Royals and the Phillies appeared as opponents on Family Feud, and it was small consolation that Kansas City won this one. Quisenberry also went one-on-one with Richard Dawson, the game show's host. Dawson came up to Quisenberry at one point in the show, and doing a fair imitation of an underhand delivery, said, "You throw this way, don't you? I think it's effeminate to throw that way."
Quisenberry laughed. Then he grasped Dawson by the lapels of his sports coat and said, "Is this more comfortable than the popular style?"
"Leave the jokes to me," said Dawson. "Don Pardo is waiting in the wings to relieve you," said Quisenberry. "He wants your job." Not exactly the Round Table at the Algonquin, but Dawson had no rejoinder, and all but the beginning of the exchange was edited out.
Quisenberry also had a little disagreement with the Royals over his contract in the off-season. They offered a one-year deal instead of the two years he asked for, and much less money than he wanted. "We're not worlds apart," said Schuerholz. "We're universes apart." The Royals were skeptical that Quisenberry could pitch well again. They settled on a one-year, $100,000 contract.
He got off to a slow start in '81, "found a delivery in my flaw," and again proved the K.C. management wrong. He finished the shortened season with 18 saves and a 1.73 ERA. He also led the club through the strike as their player rep, an unusual responsibility for a third-year man. "I volunteered to be alternate the year before because I just wanted to learn more about the union," he says. "I didn't even know what the Basic Agreement everybody referred to was. Then Jerry Terrell, the regular rep, was cut, and I walked into the strike." The day after it was settled, Janie gave birth to their second child, David.
After the season Quisenberry took the Royals to arbitration and lost: He wanted $480,000 and was awarded $300,000. In 1982 Quisenberry won the Fireman of the Year for the second time, getting 35 saves and nine wins in 72 appearances. Amazingly, he walked only 12 batters in 136‚Öî innings. He also gave up 12 home runs, which he still can't understand. Thanks to him the Royals led the league in incomplete games. And he finally made believers out of the guys in the front office; they signed him to a four-year contract through 1986, with an option on 1987, for $3.2 million.
The contract set off some good-natured kidding. "You know," says Brett, "I used to stand around with Dan in the outfield and ask him what he had done that day, and he'd say, I weeded the garden,' or 'I washed the car.' Now, when I ask him, he says, i watched the gardener weed,' or i watched my car washer wash my car.' "
The Warner Lambert Company, maker of Rolaids, proudly paraded Quisenberry around in the off-season. The Rolaids folks like Quisenberry because he's very nice to people and because he says funny things. They even have a series of outtakes of Quisenberry accepting his award that they show at sales meetings. In one, Quisenberry says, "How do I spell Relief? R-O-L-A-I-E-D-W-L-T-3-5-S." In another segment he shoves the entire roll of antacid mints in his mouth, spits them out and says, "That tasted bad."
At the New York baseball writers' dinner in January, Quisenberry got up to "accept" the Rolaids Award for the umpteenth time that winter. He said: "I'd just like to thank [Umpire] Al Clark, who's in the audience, for giving me a National League strike zone, the Royals pitchers who couldn't go nine innings, and [Manager] Dick Howser for not letting them. Dick would have been here tonight, but he and Rocky Colavito are booked solid for the next 90 days." (Howser and Colavito had recently been given 90-day sentences for hindering and interfering with police officers. The sentences later were changed to six months of unsupervised probation.) Quisenberry also accepted the award for Sutter, the National League winner. "If Bruce were here tonight I'm sure he'd say—actually, I don't know Bruce at all—he'd say, 'I make $900 million a year and I deserve this. Thank you.' "
"He was better than I was," said comedian Joe Piscopo, the evening's entertainment.
There are two baseball quote books out: Baseball's Greatest Quotes, compiled by Kevin Nelson, and Voices of Baseball, Quotations on the Summer Game, compiled by Bob Chieger. It's a measure of Quisenberry's quotability that he has seven witticisms in each of the books and that only two of them are repeated in both. In the Nelson book the active player with the most is Reggie Jackson, with 25, and Jackson has been in the big leagues for 15 years compared to Quisenberry's four. Veterans Pete Rose and Tug McGraw each have eight. In the Chieger book Dan is fourth, behind the same heady company; Jackson has 18, Rose 15 and McGraw eight. Jackson says, "Quisenberry impresses me as a guy who can whip up a good quote or a save—not necessarily in that order."
Quisenberry tries hard, sometimes too hard, for the outrageous, and he will be the first to admit he steals good lines. For instance, he's a great fan of a book called The Profit, by Kehlog Albran, a takeoff on The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. The Profit offers such wisdom as "The greatest actor in the world is the male Euphinian termite. Next comes Victor Mature."
Quisenberry performs his off-the-wall humor fairly regularly for the benefit of writers, although he says he gets funnier the deeper the Royals go into a season. A typical Quisenberry interview occurred after he earned his sixth save by getting himself into and out of a scary situation against the Yankees.
Reporter: "Did you know your records this year are actually better than they were at this time last year?"
Quisenberry: "How did you know? I'm into classical this year instead of pop."
Reporter: "Are you trying to disguise your knuckleball?"
Quisenberry: "No, actually, I want to give it away. If the hitters know it's coming, I'm hoping they'll change the swings that got them to the big leagues."
Reporter: "Did the weather affect your performance?"
Quisenberry: "Actually, I think my problem is that I haven't been clipping my toenails properly. The club is after me to change that."
Says Reliever Mike Armstrong, Quisenberry's locker neighbor, "The day I came up he treated me very seriously, telling me how to settle in and everything. But that night, after I heard how he talked to reporters, well, I couldn't believe it. I'd never heard anybody do that before."
"I call him Henny Young-man," says Schuerholz.
Offstage Quisenberry is genuinely funny, with a fine feel for the absurd. When he's leading someone to his house by car, for instance, he likes to pull up to a huge mansion in the K.C. suburb of Mission Hills, get out and walk to the gate as if it were his. The mansion happens to belong to Ewing Kauffman, who also owns the Royals.
Not long ago Quisenberry went into one of his favorite Kansas City haunts, The Book Shop at Brook-side, and greeted the proprietor, Roy Beaty, with "Roy, do you have a copy of the story of the 1981 Royals? Ah, there it is." He walked over to the fiction section and pulled out The Caine Mutiny.
When the wine arrives in a restaurant, he may suddenly wax eloquent: "You know, wines are a lot like pitchers. They have good years and bad years. Take this Piesporter, for instance. It had a good year in '81. I think it was just a matter of getting its confidence back."
He can also play the straight man. On a recent Saturday he walked into the New York Bakery & Delicatessen in Kansas City with 3-year-old daughter Alysia in one arm and David in the other and ordered three pastramis on rye and two turkeys on white. The counterman thought he recognized him.
"I know you. You're vid the baseball team, right?"
"No, I'm just an accountant. But people are always telling me I look like Dennis Leonard."
"No, you're not him. I know who you are. You're the relief pitcher, vhathisname, Kveesenberry."
"No, really, I'm an accountant."
"I don't blame you. If I gave up a home run like you did last night, I vouldn't vant to be recognized, either." Quisenberry had, in fact, served up a ninth-inning, game-tying home-run ball to the Indians' Andre Thornton the night before.
"I enjoy his sense of humor," says Howser. "I enjoy his pitching even more."
Quisenberry's, of course, is what sets him apart. If you're a batter, you see him wind up like a normal pitcher, but then he pivots, does a fleeting imitation of a flamingo, steps toward third base, pulls his right hand out from what seems like his left back pocket, whips his arm around and throws from what seems like the tops of Third Baseman Brett's shoes. Then he follows through with a little jump that leaves him squarely facing the plate. "He comes," says Milwaukee's Rick Manning, "from a different zone."
Submariners—a silly way to describe them, actually—are not to be confused with sidearmers. In the minor leagues they call what sidearmers do "throwing Laredo," Laredo being in the bottom of Texas. Quisenberry says his style is more "throwing Sydney."
There used to be more underneathers than there are today. In fact, in the early days of baseball, pitchers weren't allowed to bring their arms above their waists, so Quisenberry and Tekulve can probably claim Candy Cummings and John Montgomery Ward as their ancestors.
Their patron saint of underneathers, if they had such a thing, would be Elden Auker, a successful pitcher in the American League in the '30s and early '40s. Auker, who shares the nickname Big Six with Christy Mathewson, went 18-7 for the Tigers in his best year, 1935. He's alive and well and living in Florida, and he watches Quisenberry on television. The Negro leagues also had a standout submariner, Webster McDonald, during Auker's era. And there was Carl Mays, who. though he won 208 games in 15 major league seasons, is best remembered for a submarine fastball that killed Ray Chapman in 1920.
The supply of below-the-waisters, almost exclusively relievers, began to trickle out in the '50s. Dick Hyde was a leading practitioner and served the Senators well out of the bullpen. Jim Lehew had cups of coffee with the Orioles in '61 and '62. Ted Abernathy had a long and fruitful career from down under, starting with the Senators in '55 and finishing with the Royals in '72, as did Cecil Upshaw, who pitched mostly for the Braves in the '60s and '70s. Tekulve brought the submariner back into prominence in the late '70s by saving games for the Pirates.
Considering the success of Tekulve and Quisenberry and the anatomical and kinesiological soundness of throwing underhand, one might wonder why there aren't more of these fellows in the major leagues. (The arm naturally hangs down; the overhand motion is more stressful on both the bony and soft structures of the shoulder and arm, especially the elbow.) "Most guys would love to throw submarine," says Dave Beard, Oakland's hard-throwing reliever, "but it's a lot harder than it looks. For Quisenberry to be able to get the ball over for strikes with something on it is incredible to me." A few years ago, Don Gullett, the former Reds and Yankees fastballer, was trying to come back from a sore arm and played around with a submarine pitch before giving-up altogether.
Much of Quisenberry's effectiveness is derived from batters' unfamiliarity with his motion—it's a good thing for both him and Tekulve that they're in different leagues. But that doesn't explain all his success.
His control is phenomenal. Last year he walked one batter every 11 innings. The three little words which mean the most to any manager in baseball are he throws strikes. Quisenberry throws strikes.
He also throws sinkers. His pitch isn't very fast, 80 to 85 mph, but the ball feels like lead when it hits a bat. He has no secret. He just holds the ball with the seams and lets his arm and wrist do their thing. "He's not tough to put the ball in play against," says Detroit's Alan Trammell. "It's just tough to put it where you want it." Fortunately, in Frank White and U.L. Washington, Quisenberry has an excellent double-play combination out there. "I can sum up my season with 30 saves, 30 strikeouts and 30 great plays behind me," says Quisenberry. He might be even better if his home park had natural grass instead of the fake stuff that turns routine grounders into singles.
And because Quisenberry doesn't strike out many hitters, Howser has to use him differently than he would a flamethrower—an even sillier term than submariner. "I have to bring Dan in one batter earlier than I would a Gossage," says Howser. "I know he's not going to get out of a jam with a strikeout, and the ground ball I want him to get might go through for a hit."
If Quisenberry were a fluke the batters would have caught on by now. But not only does he throw sinkers, he also throws sliders, occasional changeups and, ta-da, knuckleballs. Says Oakland's Rickey Henderson, "I didn't know he had a knuckleball until he threw me one with two strikes at the end of last year. I had no chance. I just froze and let it go by. I stared at him, but he just turned his back. And I'm thinking, 'That's not fair.' "
Says Schuerholz, "He has never stopped in his quest to improve." This year in spring training he talked to Gene Garber, the Braves' sidearmer, about a changeup, but Quisenberry is still only toying with the pitch.
Detroit Pitcher Milt Wilcox is an admirer. "The smartest thing Dan does is come up with a variation of pitches every year," he says. "I watch him. He plays the chess game real well. I don't care what hitters say, they're up there guessing. That's why his variations work."
Quisenberry keeps detailed notes—written from memory usually the day after the game—on each of his outings. Under each entry is the date, the place and the situation and score when he entered the game. On May 8 in Toronto he came in for Steve Renko with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth and the score 6-1 in K.C.'s favor. He got Lloyd Moseby to ground to short on a "sink (o)"—his notation for an outside sinker. In the ninth, he got into a typical Quisenberry jam. Ernie Whitt hit a sink (m) to second, but White made an error. Rance Mulliniks hit a sink (o) for a single to left. Jesse Barfield struck out on a slide (o). Alfredo Griffin flied out to right on a knuck (i). Dave Collins grounded to second on a sink (m), and Quisenberry had his seventh save.
Something else that distinguishes him from other relievers is his ability to get ready so quickly and frequently. In the summer he takes approximately 10 pitches before he pronounces himself prepared. And he throws nearly every day, whether he's needed or not. "My only worry is getting him enough work," says Howser. "As often as I've checked with him, he's never told me he couldn't pitch that day. Even if I know he's tired, he'll say he can get two or three batters out."
Schaffer says, "If I had to describe him in one word it would be 'loose.' He's got a loose arm. And he's got a loose personality. That's what makes him such a good reliever."
Fred Lynn of the Angels is only kidding when he says, "Maybe if we stole his sense of humor we'd be able to hit Quisenberry better." But there's more than a little truth in his statement.
"Almost every successful relief pitcher I know is a little crazy," says Brewer Reliever Rollie Fingers. "You've got to be nuts to be in this job."
It's hard to figure which comes first, the Goose or the egg. Do free spirits make good relievers, or does relieving free their spirits?
Whatever the case, the job of the short man can be so pressure-packed that unless the pitcher finds some release, he'll crumble. Invariably, his appearance is made at the most stressful time of the game: men on, tight score, everyone depending on him. "If you let a bad outing bother you for too long," says Quisenberry, "you begin seeing videotape replays of the game on the walls of your hotel room."
Last year a writer asked Quisenberry, who had given up a game-winning pinch hit to Angel rookie Daryl Sconiers, if that was the worst possible way to lose a game. "I must have given him 20 worse ways of losing," Quisenberry says. "I said it would be worse if I had balked a runner home all the way from first. If Amos Otis was settling under the last out and an earthquake caused him to miss it, now that would've been worse. I just kept going on and on."
Quisenberry gets serious by about the sixth inning. "When it gets into his territory," says Schaffer, "he does get worked up. He'll go to the bathroom a time or two. But the rest of us in the bullpen can relax because it's Quiz time."
Quisenberry isn't a flake. O.K., he reads Kehlog Albran, he pretends Ewing Kauffman's house is his, he plays people's teeth, he befriends the spiders in the Cleveland bullpen, he often signs balls, "Dennis Leonard"...well, maybe he is a flake.
"I think he qualifies," says Royals Pitcher Paul Splittorff. "He's a little bit strange. Now I like his sense of humor, but the other guys in the clubhouse look at him like, 'What's he talking about?' "
Janie doesn't think her husband is a flake, although she's biased. She actually calls him Quiz and laughs at nearly all his jokes, which takes some doing. "It's only been a few years since I've been able to give jokes back," she says. When she served him lunch one day early this season, Dan asked Janie how it felt to be a mother of three—he being the third. She said, "It's fine now that the oldest has begun to take on more responsibility." If and when she writes her book, as is the craze among baseball wives, she says her title will be Where's My Relief? She has an apron asking that very question.
Janie doesn't go to every Royals home game, but she listens to every one she can get her ear to, although, like her husband, she doesn't get excited until it's Quiz Time. "He does have a way of making the game interesting," she says of his brinksmanship. She's shyer than Dan, and only recently has she felt that she belongs in the majors (the hierarchy in the wives' waiting room is sometimes as structured as the hierarchy in the clubhouse). But she now feels comfortable enough to organize a drive to collect canned food for the needy, at Royals Stadium later this summer. That only adds to her juggling act of mother, wife, chauffeur, secretary and accountant, but she doesn't mind. "Janie and Dan have a very complementary relationship," says Marty Quisenberry. "That's a very strong marriage." Marty specializes in family counseling, so he knows one when he sees one.
Quisenberry is Becky Mein's favorite player, and Becky Mein is his favorite fan. "She writes the most beautiful notes, and she does needlepoint for everybody's kids," he says. A 23-year-old college student, Becky has cerebral palsy, and after a game two months ago in Royals Stadium, Quisenberry went to meet her on the plaza level, where he chatted with her and gave her a baseball glove and a kiss. In typical fashion, he kidded her that if Renie Martin were still with the Royals, he would be her favorite player.
Quisenberry is a devout Christian, but even in religion he's sort of off-the-walls-of-Jericho. "We once had a really funny Bible study," says Armstrong. "It was out in California, and his-brother Marty was with us. Before one of the games we got together and read from Mark, and we became so dramatic that we had to stop because we were laughing so hard." As Psalms 2 says, "He that sits in heaven shall laugh."
Quisenberry is also a devoted family man, and he has a rather extended family. He keeps in touch with his natural father, a car dealer in Bremerton, Wash., and in fact, all the branches of the tree were in Kansas City last winter for a charity roast of Dan, which benefited a local diabetes foundation.
Quisenberry also spends a great deal of time with his children. While he plays the role of father very well, he hasn't forgotten what it's like to be a kid. After he and Alysia spent part of a recent afternoon stomping on towels to soak up water in the basement, they sat down to play.
"Do you want to build something?" he asked her.
"Yes," she said.
"Shall we build a bullpen?"
"The one in New York or the one in Detroit?"
They proceeded to build a facsimile of a bullpen, complete with bullpen car and fans.
"This is where Daddy works," he said.
Because this is the last inning we thought we'd give the ball to Quisenberry. Herewith relief writing by The Australian:
In Kansas City I go out to the bullpen at 7:27. I do that because I used to go out with Renie Martin at that time, and the reason he did that was because his number was 27. I just never changed.
The first thing I do is talk to the rightfield fans, just say hi. Then I drop my glove off and go into the grounds crew's office. I tell them the same thing every night—"This is the big leagues now"—just to let them know where they are. I get a cup of coffee and talk to George Toma till the game starts. He tells me what I should do with my Zoisia.
When the game starts I either go to the car or the bench. Then I go to where the action is, wherever there's a good story or a mind game going on. I'm looking to be entertained for the first five or six innings.
You can have some fun out there. When Marty Pat tin pitched for us, he'd bring popcorn. He was also the best duck talker I've ever heard, which is how he got his nickname. Anytime you got Duck to talk duck it was worthwhile. We loved to go to Toronto because then Duck would do both national anthems in duck.
I also like to sit and watch opposing outfielders play the rightfield wall in Kansas City. The fence is in a quarter circle, so you have to play the ball as if you were a right wing in hockey and it was coming around the boards. It's like a cartoon. First you see the outfielder disappear to the left, then you see the ball go past in the other direction, and then you see the outfielder chasing it.
Kansas City's is, of course, my favorite bullpen, but I also like Baltimore's, New York's, Milwaukee's and Boston's. I don't like any bullpen that's not enclosed because you're afraid to throw a nasty slider when you're warming up. If it got away, you'd disrupt the game. The things you look for in a good bullpen are 1) area to graze, 2) freedom to throw a pitch without having it get away, 3) access to the scoreboard, 4) diversions, 5) a bathroom and 6) proper distance from the fans. The only thing Cleveland has that I like is diversion. The bullpen there used to have these big, hairy spiders—Louie was one of them. This year we noticed that they were gone, although they have left some offspring. But they're not even ready to shave yet.
The dominant personality in the bullpen is Jim Schaffer, Muggsy. He's got to be the best bullpen coach in the game, although I've only had two, so what do I know? He's a great baby-sitter. I don't think he ever thought he'd be the father of six kids, six boys to boot. He's a good disciplinarian, but he never has to spank us. He never leaves his chair, but he knows where we are at all times. And he always has a good bedtime story for us.
Last year Mike Armstrong and Bill Castro were warming up when the phone rang. It was Cloyd Boyer, the pitching coach, and he asked Schaf who was ready. He said, "They're both ready." Then C.B. said, "Which one looks better?" And Schaf said, "They're both pretty ugly."
One thing I like to watch for in the bullpen is The Look. Whenever the alarm goes off during a game, somebody gets this look in his eye, depending on where we are in the game. The Look is a stare that goes for 30 yards and focuses on nothing. I know I get it. Your mind starts playing visions of embarrassment and greatness against each other, and you become a blend of fear and hope and confidence. When the danger's passed, The Look goes away. You breathe a sigh of relief but also a sigh of disappointment because you wanted to be in the game.
I feel a lot of responsibility, more than I used to. If I lost I used to be able to think it away easier. I could accept the result if I'd thrown a good pitch.
It's not that easy anymore. I feel more guilty if things don't go right. I think about the starting pitcher and the fans and the owner and the general manager and the friends and relatives who are going to read the paper the next morning, and the guys who built up the lead. Everybody expects me to close up shop nicely, and I feel guilty when I don't.
I don't want to sound depressing, and I'm only talking about maybe 10% of the games I'm in that I don't do the job. It's just that I've come to expect a lot more out of myself. So when everything goes right, and I get the save, I'm the one who's saved.
Early in the season, we killed a night off in Cleveland by writing a song. Ron Johnson was then our Black & Decker—our tool, our bullpen catcher—and he's pretty good with a guitar, so we came up with something called Secret Bullpen Man, which is sung to the tune of Secret Agent Man, the old song by Johnny Rivers. In the song we make fun of each other's inadequacies. Everybody is lit up in this thing, and some of it would be pretty embarrassing. But the chorus is, "Secret Bullpen Man, Secret Bullpen Man,/ You can always call his number,/ But don't put him in the game." The song ends with us singing, "No, no, not me,/ No, no, not you,/ No, no, not him." Here's my verse:
"The ace down here is Dan Quisenberry.
He likes to make the games kind of scary.
He's got a bag of tricks.
But mostly takes his licks.
He makes the skipper head straight for the sherry."
It has a good beat and you can dance to it. I give it an 85.
It's funny. The bullpen is a closed environment, but I get a sense of freedom there that I don't get in the dugout or the clubhouse. I guess I just like being locked in a closet, taking verbal abuse from a lot of hostile people.
QUIZ VS. THE COMPETITION