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Quisenberry In Fight For Life

Wed., Jan. 14, 1998

Laugh today. Laugh once. Here, this might help. Once, when Dan Quisenberry won the American League Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year, he was asked to accept the National League award for Bruce Sutter. And this is what he said.

“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.”’

Laugh today. Laugh hard. It’s OK.

He’d want that. The news came to Dan Quisenberry and his family in a terrible collection of syllables Monday. You know doctors found a brain tumor last week, they operated, removed as much as they could. Monday, tests revealed that it is a grade IV malignant astrocytoma. That’s the worst thing they could have found. That means the tumor grows rapidly. Radiation begins soon. Chemotherapy, maybe. The outlook is harsh. Toss Dan Quisenberry in your prayers today.

And laugh. Roar. Chuckle. Think of him today, think of that time when he was talking about home runs and he said, “Reggie Jackson hit one off of me that’s still burrowing to Los Angeles.”

Wait, did someone say home runs? What is it he said? “The batter still hits a ground ball. But in this case the first bounce is 360 feet away.”

Remember what he looked like throwing the ball to home plate, that weird, herky, jerky, submariney, ‘50s dance-craze style of his that became so famous it is in the South Jersey Modified Fast Pitch Softball League. There’s a rule, B10, that states you can’t slingshot the ball like Dan Quisenberry.

“I found a delivery in my flaw,” he said once.

Laugh, howl a bit, what are the words in Psalms? “He that sits in heaven shall laugh.”

Remember how somebody asked Quisenberry about growing old and he said, “Most pitchers fear losing their fastball, but since I don’t have one, all I have to fear is fear itself.”

Wait, there was this time a reporter wandered up after Quiz had given up a game-winning hit in the ninth inning. “Is this the worst way to lose a game?” the reporter asked.

“Well, I could have balked in a run from first base,” Quisenberry said. “Amos Otis could have been settling under a fly ball, and an earthquake could have caused him to miss it. Esther Williams could have been swimming in the fountains, distracting George Brett, causing him to throw the ball away. Lightning could have struck the ball. The ball could have hit me in the nose… .”

He offered 20 more. There was never a way to hush Quisenberry.

“Once I tried to drown myself with a shower nozzle when I gave up a home run to a guy in the bottom of the ninth,” he said once. “I found out you can’t.”

Laugh today. Do you realize how lucky we are that Dan Quisenberry ended up here, in Kansas City, first saving games, then raising a family, then helping children, then writing poetry, crashing words and ideas together.

So much going on in that man’s head. It was always that way. He clowned in the bullpen, made up songs, played Name That Tune, told good jokes, told bad jokes, he was a flake, but there was always something more, something deeper. The secretary of defense quoted him in a speech once, because one day Quiz was sitting around, pondering things, and he said, “I have seen the future, and it’s much like the present, only longer.”

Everybody has repeated that one. And everybody has quoted the first time he looked at the Metrodome in Minneapolis and said, “I don’t think there are any good uses for nuclear weapons, but this might be one.”

And this is what he said about grass: “It’s a wonderful thing for little bugs and sinkerball pitchers.”

And this is what he called the best thing about baseball: “There is no homework.”

And this is what he said about his days after retirement: “I still sweat.”

And this is what he said about his last baseball contract: “It has guarantees until the year 2020 or until the last Rocky movie is made.”

Laugh today. Laugh once. Laugh for him. He’d like that.

We don’t really understand the words “grade IV malignant astrocytoma.” We just know they’re ominous, we know they’re harsh, we know Dan Quisenberry is in for a life fight. Laugh today.

Here, this might help. A day, not so long ago, Quisenberry retired from baseball. He decided he had backed up enough bases. And this is what he said.

“Every day was Christmas. Sometimes I didn’t like the package. But I liked opening the presents.”

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