A Letter from Quiz
When we think of Dan Quisenberry the first thoughts are usually of his submarine pitching motion, his uncanny control, his ability to induce ground balls and close out many Royals wins with lots and lots of saves. Maybe even his trademark mustache would make your list, but even with all those attributes I’m always drawn to remember his almost peerless wit.
Once when speaking about his lack of velocity and somewhat unique pitching motion he said, “I found a delivery in my flaw.” Upon accepting the 1982 American League Relief Man of the Year Award Quis quipped, “I want to thank all the pitchers who couldn’t go nine innings, and Dick Howser who wouldn’t let them.” On relying on his teammates defensive skills he said, “Our fielders have to catch a lot of balls, or at least deflect them to someone who can.” And on life in general he gave us this pearl of wisdom and humor, “I’ve seen the future and it’s a lot like that present – only longer.”
Dan seemingly made a lasting impression on all those he came in contact with during his all too brief life – even those he never meet face to face. Recently I came across another example of that in an article titled ‘How Athletes Ensure Immortality’ written by Darren Garnick of The Atlantic.
In the piece he talks about immortality in the sense of induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame – the type of immortality many believe Quisenberry’s career in baseball merits (note – two separate links). But then he speaks of the immortality a player has the chance to make by taking advantage of the unique opportunity they have to connect with people. All kinds of people, from the fan in the stands to the child in the hospital. From the usher at the ballpark, to – in Gurnick’s case – a 13 year-old letter writing fan half-way across the country in New England.
Garnick, a Red Sox fan by birth, took a liking to Quisenberry primarily because of the submarine style motion of the Royals ace reliever. It reminded him of the way his father tossed a whiffle ball to him in their own backyard. Like many young boys Garnick had baseball dreams and he decided to write Quisenberry for some advice on becoming a better player. To young Garnick’s surprise his creative writing got a response from the man himself – a two page hand written letter the now slightly older Garnick still cherishes a full third of a century later.
You can see the entire response letter from Quisenberry here in Garnick’s blog.
The advice Garnick sought on becoming a better baseball player was given, but in the end it was secondary to the personal connection the letter made. Like most of us the big league dream didn’t come through for Garnick. Nevertheless Quisenberry’s letter gave Garnick high marks for being creative and that made all the difference for both of them. Quisenberry saw creativity in Garnick’s letter and responded. And in some small way perhaps Quisenberry’s tip of the cap to Garnick helped inspire more creativity on the part of the 13 year-old he never met.
Garnick’s creativity is still going strong. He is a writer for The Atlantic, an author and Emmy-nominated documentary producer. Quiz was right – the kid was creative.
It seems the art of the hand-written personal letter is almost completely gone. Today we communicate faster and more often than ever, but the personal touch is sometimes lost in translation. It is something we’ll really come to miss. I may be wrong, but a two screen e-mail written today probably won’t hold the same emotional connection in the year 2047 that Quisenberry’s 1981 letter has for Gurnick.
With the letter in his hands, Garnick says of Quisenberry, “For this, he remains immortal to me.”
To that I say to Garnick – he is here in Kansas City too. Dan Quisenberry was simply one of the best ever – and he was a darn good pitcher too.