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The Kansas City Royals have a terrific bullpen. It's out there beyond the rightfield wall at Royals Stadium. It's spacious and clean. It has 10 orange theater seats and a black leather chair for the coach. The regular occupants have an excellent view of the action on the field. On cold nights, select members of the crew can be found seated in the bullpen car listening to the game on the radio. The bathroom is probably the best bullpen lavatory in the league. Not many such facilities are equipped with a mirror to ensure that the relievers are well groomed for those late-inning stints.
By happy fortune, the bullpen is adjacent to a cavernous area beneath the rightfield bleachers used by the grounds crew. That means that the pitchers and catchers can relieve their occasional boredom by checking out the latest tractor, examining the Hanging Gardens of groundskeeper George Toma or reading passages from How To Control Lawn Diseases and Pests. According to Dan Quisenberry, the bullpen's tour guide, the pitchers even come in to borrow the grounds crew's equipment for use in a game.
"You've heard about control artists," says Quisenberry, coming upon the painting supplies. "Well, these are the brushes they use to paint the corners of the plate. This little one here belongs to Larry Gura." Quisenberry goes over to a huge roller. "This one used to belong to Renie Martin."
Quisenberry does more in the bullpen than just give tours. He does crossword puzzles (surreptitiously), plays Password and Name That Tune and provides a Mr. Coffee. He generally keeps the gang amused by, for instance, helping select an All-Star team of players one would be most afraid to room with. When his friend Martin belonged to the Royals, Martin would sing songs relating to the game in progress while Quisenberry played on Renie's protuberant teeth as if they were xylophone keys. But Martin was traded to the Giants in 1982, and, anyway, he had his teeth fixed last year.
Oh, yes. Quisenberry saves games, too. Since 1980, he has saved 105, more than any reliever in that time. Of the '83 Royals' 36 wins through Sunday, Quisenberry had saved 20.
He also saves countless stories for writers looking for an outrageous quote. He can not only finish a game but War and Peace as well. He serves as the Royals' player representative. And because of a strong belief in the Savior, he often leads the team chapel meetings.
All of which is not bad for: a) a skinny kid who wasn't supposed to make the varsity in high school; b) a square dancer; c) a college student who changed his major on an almost daily basis; d) a pitcher who discovered his delivery by accident; e) a free agent who signed with the Royals by accident; f) a starter who became a reliever by accident; g) a submarine pitcher who never thought he would surface; h) a skinny kid who wasn't supposed to make the majors; i) all of the above. "You know," says all of the above's brother, Marty, "Dan has been pitching with men on base his whole life. And not just in games."
Today he's the best relief pitcher in the American League, if not baseball, and if the password were save, Quisenberry would be as good a clue as any. Which is why the Royals' bullpen coach, Jimmie Schaffer, hangs up the phone 100 times a year and says, "The Australian."
That's one of Quisenberry's names. He comes from down under.
THE FIRST INNING