Today would have been Dan Quisenberry’s 69th birthday. “Quiz,” as he was affectionately known by teammates and fans alike, was best known during his 10 seasons with the KC Royals for his submarine style of pitching and quick-witted personality. He left the world all too soon 24 years ago come September.
As a player, Quisenberry was one of the best relievers in Royals history, and that was without being overpowering. He knew he lacked heat and named his fastball “Peggy Lee” because, as he told Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell in 1980, “the first time a hitter sees it, he says, ‘Is that all there is?'”
Quisenberry transitioned to the submarine style in 1980 and it worked wonders for him. He notched a 12-7 record with a 3.09 ERA and tied Rich Gossage of the Yankees for the major league lead in saves with 33. He also led the American League with 75 appearances.
That same season, he finished fifth in Cy Young voting and helped the Royals finally overcome the Yankees to win their first AL pennant. He pitched 4.2 scoreless innings with a win and a save in the 1980 ALCS.
Dan Quisenberry was a strong reliever for the KC Royals for 10 years.
Over a 10-year span, Quisenberry cemented his name in Kansas City’s record books. His career 2.55 ERA is the best in club history. He’s second to Montgomery with 238 saves and 573 appearances, and to Bret Saberhagen with an overall 1.15 WHIP. He also had a terrific 1.4 BB/9 rate.
He was also a three-time All-Star and led the American League in saves and won American League Fireman of the Year five times. He set a then-record with 45 saves in 1983, finished in the top three in Cy Young voting from 1982-1985, and was the fifth pitcher in major league history to reach the 200-save mark.
Upon winning his first AL Fireman of the Year Award in 1982, Quisenberry, his wit evident, remarked:
"“I want to thank (winning the 1982 Fireman Award) all the pitchers who couldn’t go nine innings, and manager Dick Howser who wouldn’t let them go.”"
He also performed admirably during the 1985 World Series. He had a stingy 2.08 ERA and struck out three in 4.1 innings, and won the famous Game 6 in relief of starter Charlie Leibrandt.
Despite being a solid anchor for the Royals, time came calling on Quisenberry when he got off to a rocky start in 1988—he had an uncharacteristic 3.55 ERA in 20 games. Kansas City released him in July and he pitched for the Cardinals for the rest of that season and one more before finishing his career in San Francisco.
Quisenberry retired in 1990 with 244 saves over a 12-year career.
Dan Quisenberry’s poetic life outside the KC Royals and his untimely end.
Another thing Quisenberry excelled at was poetry—he published a book titled “On Days Like This: Poems,” which gave some insight to both his life and his baseball career.
Quisenberry was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in 1998. The Royals soon honored him by inducting him into their Hall of Fame. During the day’s press conference, and as well-chronicled in a story appearing on mlb.com last year by writer Steve Wulf, who was there, someone asked Quiz whether there was a “a lesson in all of this?” Quisenberry delayed an answer, but later returned to the question and said, “We need each other. That’s the lesson.”
Dan Quisenberry was one of the greatest players in Royals history and a man beloved by his teammates and fans alike.