By In Stuff

Feb. 7 birthdays: Quiz and Katie

First, a special birthday mention today to Robert Smigel, who created the all-time Saturday Night Live classic, “Da Bears” with the great Joe Mantegna.

Bill: Now let me shift gears here for a moment. What is God’s role in dis? Obviously he’s rooting for Da Bears.

Pat: Udderwise he wouldn’t have put ’em in Chicago.

Carl: That’s right.

Bill: Da question is: Now did God create Da Bears and make dem superior to all udder teams. Or is he simply a huge fan, and Ditka made dem superior to all udder teams.”

Pat: It’s a tough one.

Today’s birthday athlete is an old friend, Dan Quisenberry, who led the league in saves five times, who finished Top three in the Cy Young voting four times, who unintentionally walked just 92 people in more than 1,000 innings, whose side-arming, sinker-balling, never-beat-yourself style is best described in his own poetic words.

On his pitching style: “I found a delivery in my flaw.”

On natural grass: “A wonderful thing for little bugs and sinkerball pitchers.”

On his hitting prowess (1 for 6 in his career): “I thought (the infielders) were in a zone, but they were playing man-to-man.”

On accepting one his five Rolaids Relief Awards: “I want to thanks all the pitchers who couldn’t go nine, and Manager Dick Howser, who wouldn’t let them.”

On the best part of being a baseball player: “There is no homework.”

On giving up a home run: “The batter still hits a grounder. But in this case, the first bounce is 360 feet away.”

Bill James said this — and I concur — there has never been a pitcher who made fewer mistakes than Dan Quisenberry.

And finally, here’s a quote Quiz said to me — a quote I’ve loved as much as any quote I’ve written down through the years: Quiz was retired, and he was living his life as a father and a poet. This was shortly before doctors would discover the brain tumor that would eventually kill him. Everyone knows how Quiz faced impending death, how he and his wife Janie held hands through it all, how he said, “I never ask, ‘Why me.’ Why not me?”

But when I think of him, I think on that late autumn day, sitting down with him in a little public library in Kansas, having listened to him and other poets read their work. And I asked him if he missed the cheers. He smiled and said, “I don’t miss the cheers. I just go to the ballpark, sit in the stands, and pretend they’re cheering for me.”

Today’s other birthday — the most important one for the author — is my daughter Katie. She turns 8 today. When I dropped her off at school, she hopped out of the car and literally skipped to the door. Then she held the door open for a stream of children who had been behind her. She just stood there for 10 or 15 seconds, holding the door, watching the kids go by, happier than anyone in the entire world because she was helping. For her birthday, I wish I could give her the gift of staying that happy for the rest of her life. But I can’t. Like Quiz, like all of us, she’ll have to find her own way. Anyway, she wants the “Just Dance 4” video game.

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17 Responses to Feb. 7 birthdays: Quiz and Katie

  1. Thanks Joe. I wish we had more players in sports like Quisenberry today. Or maybe that’s just me feeling jaded for an era of Latrell Sprewells and Dwight Howards.

  2. LargeBill says:

    Happy birthday Katie!

    Shame Quiz left so young and shame on BBWAA for not recognizing his greatness.

  3. El Guapo says:

    I hope your little girl enjoys her day and her video game very much. FYI after you put in the disc you need to download “Gangnam Style” separately, for an extra couple of bucks.

  4. ceolaf says:

    Someone is doing a great job raising those girls.

  5. Thanks for the stories and keeping alive the memory of Quiz.

  6. mickey says:

    So you’re one of those parents who, after dropping off your kid at school, refuses to drive off promptly and therefore causes the 10 parents queued behind you to be late for work. Cowboy up–she’s going to leave home someday. Get accustomed to it–she can walk the 10 yards to the school door without you lurking and musing over idyllic Rockwell fantasies of family life as your engine idles. Or maybe you should just walk her to school.

    • Dan Shea says:

      I’m with you on the walking. But perhaps the school Katie goes to has a drop-off area less congested than the one you imagine. And if you’re implying that wishing happiness for one’s kids is an idyllic Rockwell fantasy, we may have to agree to disagree.

  7. Your says:

    Where is Feb. 8th? My boy is 11 today.

  8. Your says:

    Well I looked it up. Feb. 8 is pretty weak.

  9. brhalbleib says:

    Is it me or is February chock full of important birthdays? I mean, baseball has Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron, football has Lawrence Taylor and basketball has Michael Jordan. Those are all top 10 players in their sport and two of them are probably #1 in their sport. Then you have arguably the two most important American Presidents (Lincoln and Washington). You can also make an argument that Charles Darwin was the most important scientist ever too.

    Something must be in the water in May. (and yes, I do happen to have a Februray birthday myself)

    • Ian R. says:

      Given that there are 12 months in the year, we’d reasonably expect most of them to have a top 10 player in any given sport, although it’s definitely an amusing coincidence that Ruth and Jordan were born in the same month.

      Incidentally, Richard Barbieri over at THT did a fascinating study on baseball players who were born in specific months. September ended up having the best team, though that’s as much a function of happening to have a great player at every position as having a great overall class (the February team, for instance, can’t start Ruth AND Aaron because they both played right field).

      The roundup is here:

    • Chris M says:

      I’m thinking if I’m the manager of the February team, I figure out a way to get Ruth and Aaron in the lineup together…one of them can probably handle left.

      Or you could always have Ruth pitch.

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  11. Anthony says:

    Happy belated birthday to Kate…

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