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.”
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.