Call him Trivia Quiz.
His manager calls him "the biggest reason why we have the best record in baseball." But few know him.
He calls his best pitch the Peggy Lee, because, "the first time a hitter sees it, he says, 'Is that all there is?'"
But he has finished 42 victories this season, with 31 saves and 11 wins, which puts him ahead of the all-time record pace for wins and saves.
When he first appeared out of the miserable Kansas City bullpen 14 months ago with no fanfare and few prospects, fans saw his bizarre name -- Quisenberry -- and dubbed him the "Royals Relief Flavor of the Month."
Now, Quiz is their blue-plate special every day.
Jim Frey, Royal rookie manager, is adamant on one point: The big difference in his '80 Royals is not George Brett, the fellow who would have to go zero to 128 to get his batting average down to .300. It's mild mannered, mischievous Dan Quisenberry.
To get the respect he deserves, the 28-year-old submarine sinker baller -- who never got past AA ball until last season -- should be introduced by his numbers:
He has entered 50 games with the Royals either ahead or tied.They have won 45, or 90 percent.
He has finished 57 of the league-leading 64 games in which he appeared.
In the fireman of the year race, he is an astounding 25 points ahead of his American League competition, and is just two points behind Bruce Sutter's total of 80 points last year, a standard that was thought to be untouchable.
He should threaten the all-time record for saves: 38, by Detroit's John Hiller.
"Actually, it's all a shock to me," says the fragile 6-foot-2, 175-pounder with the reddish blond hair, the wry wit and the clean-cut, look-you-in-the-eye mien of an earnest young minister.
"I had 11 saves and four wins in August," he says, almost perplexed. "That used to be my season total." In fact, that's better than four of his five minor league seasons.
In every way, Quisenberry is the opposite of a typical bullpen stopper. The idea is to come into a jam throwing an unhittable pitch. Quisenberry couldn't throw the ball past your Aunt Hattie.
"My goal is to go down in history as a trivia answer," says Quisenberry: "Who had more saves than strikeouts?"
At the moment, he has 31 saves and just 30 strikeouts in 108 innings -- which means he has about the least frightening stuff in baseball.
Everybody hits him. His Peggy Lee ball looks like Quisenberry shortcake to batters, until they swing at it and hit ground balls to shortstop.
Besides his sinker, Quiz throws a slider and a fork ball, both of which scare him to death. He calls his slider, which is supposed to rise, his Titanic pitch: "It's supposed to be unsinkable. But when it does start to go down, it can be a real disaster." As for the fork ball, he mostly left it in the minors -- "I stuck a fork in it and decided it was done."
While other relievers cultivate reputations for menace and eccentricity, Quisenberry's only flavor is in his quiet, sly conversation. "I'm not crazy at all," he says apologetically. "I guess I'm trying to prove that there can be a sane relief pitcher."
Despite a 2.02 ERA in the minors, Quiz's repertoire was so humble that the Royals called him up only out of pure desperation last year, a season in which they used 15 different men in relief, including a shortstop. Then-manager Whitey Herzog used six relief pitchers at least two dozen times each, and, despite waving to the pen 239 times, got only 27 saves out of the whole lousy bunch.
But Frey saw something. What he saw was Kent Tekulve of Pittsburgh, who mowed down the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, submarine-style. Frey decided he wanted one like that.
Quiz needed little adaptation to go from sidearm to submarine, so he became the guinea pig. Frey pulled strings and got Tekulve to give a one-hour spring training seminar to the dubious Quisenberry.
"The coaches were all excited, but I was a little worried," said Quiz. "It took me a long time to get to the majors the other way. I wondered, 'Can I throw strikes to spots in a game with this style, and what if I can't?'
"But the manager wanted it, so . . ."
Quiz's only brush-up course came after Tekulve saw him on television in a midseason game and phoned him long-distance with a tip about not opening up his hips too soon.
"It's a little scary to know there's only one other guy who throws like this and can coach you," says Quiz. "He's my only recourse. And I can't really call him."
Quisenberry calls Tekulve "Dad," since he's the father of his submarine sinker. He even sent Tekulve a Father's Day card. "If I'd known his address, I'd have sent him an appropriate gift," says Quiz. "Probably a tie, or maybe a nice pair of Argyle socks."
With his new style, Quiz has lost none of his old control or guile, walking only eight men unintentionally all season. The underarm approach has also doubled his once questionable stamina. When asked how he can pitch so often, Quiz says, "Because I'm a Nautilus guy," in apparent reference to the well-known Nautilus weight lifting equipment. "What I really had in mind," says Quisenberry, who doesn't have a muscle in his entire body, "is the Nautilus submarine."
"I just hope we don't wear out Quiz going for these statistical records." said pitcher Dennis Leonard. "Why are we still using him so much when we've got it as good as clinched? I'd hate like hell to have him tired for the playoffs. He's never pitched this much before."
Or, as one Royal starter says, "Over the course of a career, having Quiz, as opposed to what we had before, is like giving every starting pitcher on the staff a million dollars. He's worth that much in improving your winning percentage and lengthening your career with less complete games."
"You guys are important to me, too," said Quisenberry. "You all know when to bail out. If you guys could go nine innings, I'd never get in."
Nevertheless, Quisenberry had his first real scare this week when Milwaukee massaged him for seven consecutive hits in an eight-run ninth-inning victory, 9-7. "Two liners, two grounders and three broken bats," said Quisenberry. "A season of bad luck, I hope. But it's true that I don't know my new (endurance) limit yet. But Tekulve pitched 101 games last year."
"Bus leaving. Be on it or under it," yelled a Kansas City clubhouse man.
"Gotta run," said Quiz, jogging through the caverns of Cleveland's Memorial Stadium.
The Royal bus isn't going anywhere without him. But Quiz just doesn't know it yet.