Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cardboard appreciation: 1985 Topps Dennis Quisenberry

(The vacation season is here! Two more days of crap and then work becomes this thing that you merely visit in between doing whatever the hell you want! Here's to all of that. And baseball cards. This is Cardboard Appreciation. The 119th in a series):

The only thing that I can visualize specifically about my girlfriend in 1985 are her boots.

They were those elven boots that were popular with young women at the time. Flat, black boots that fell well short of mid-calf. She wore them all the time.

I also remember that she wore a lot of grayscale clothes. Blacks and whites and, of course, grays. It wasn't because she was dour or anything. In fact she was very positive and upbeat. The best way I can describe her is she was like Punky Brewster, if Punky was 17 years old (I guess that would make her a budding Soleil Moon Frye).

She was a whimsical, spur-of-the-moment type. We worked in the same department store, and I remember one time when we were chatting and a woman came up to us and asked if we had a something or other in stock. Before I could say, "no," Punky said, "we'll have to check in the back." And we spent a really looong time in the stock room. (Don't worry, we were just fooling around).

But, believe it or not, as I describe her, my accompanying visual memory of her is a haze. Except for the boots. And that's because of this one all-too-common fact of life back then: I don't have any pictures of her.

I don't suppose this happens quite as often today, with everyone possessing a cell phone with a camera. Every inch of life gets photographed and broadcast. But back in the mid-1980s, there were no cell phones. There were no digital cameras. There were no videocameras. If you wanted a photograph of someone, you brought along a camera, and if you were really lucky, it was one of those clunky Polaroids that spit out a photo instantly. (Shake it. Shake it, shake it, like a Polaroid picture).

We even received Polaroid cameras as a Christmas gift from the department store where we worked. We thought they were pretty cool. But it's not like anyone carried them around on their person.

So there was this one day when a professional photographer set up shop in the store to take pictures and sell photo packages to families, couples and the like. He was only there for the weekend. Punky wanted a picture of us together, to which I said, "are you crazy? Do you know how much that costs? It's like $40! I don't have $40!"

The pictures never were taken.

The relationship lasted a couple more months. I'd drive her home from work. She lived with her dad in this rather fancy house a couple of miles from my place. I started to get the idea that she didn't buy her clothes (or her boots) at our department store.

She quit her job at the store at the end of March. We stayed in touch. Over the summer, she wrote from her vacation spot in Texas. I still have one of her postcards. Then I quit my job at the store, and left town for college. There was talk of getting back together, but it never happened.

Twenty-six years later, the only visual memory I can trust of her are her boots.

What's this have to do with baseball or cards?

Not much really. I was reminded of my girlfriend and how fleeting memories can be when I was reading an old article last week. It was about the late, great Dan Quisenberry, the former reliever for the Royals. You don't hear much about him anymore.

But during the mid-1980s, he was a gigantic deal. Not only was he piling up saves at a record number. But he was a noted flake and always willing to step in front of a microphone. He was one of those guys that NBC or ABC asked to deliver the lineup for the television audience.

The thing that made Quisenberry most memorable was his delivery. He threw underhanded in a sweeping motion that made me wonder how he got anything over the plate. But then the writer mentioned something that I hadn't thought about in years. He mentioned the Quisenberry hop. After delivering a pitch, Quisenberry's motion would cause him to hop to the right side of the mound. Almost every time. Deliver a pitch. Hop. Deliver a pitch. Hop.

When I read the words from the writer, a visual image popped in my head of Quisenberry hopping. I knew instantly what he was saying. I had seen that hop over and over but hadn't thought about it for decades.

Today, if you want to see Quisenberry pitch, you can consult youtube. And that's what I did, just to confirm the hop that I saw in my head.

Writing is a great tool for that, unearthing a long forgotten image or memory. Music does that, too. Better than anything else. But with a video, there it is. Same with a picture.

I still beat myself up for turning down that photographer's offer to take a picture of the happy couple. Today, 40 bucks is a couple of blasters. Not the big deal it was then.

I have no idea where "Punky" is now. Just as well. I'm sure my wife wouldn't like a photo of a former flame hanging around the house anyway.

Still got the image of the boots. And Quisenberry's hop. And a few other random memories of the mid-80s that will never really go away, but are frustratingly disconnected.

Take every cell phone picture you can, You're going to want to remember it all. ... Well, some of it.


With the Quisenberry card, 64 Cardboard Appreciation cards have gone by since I determined the first Cardboard Appreciation Hall of Famer, which was the 1991 Topps Carlton Fisk card.

That means it's time to hold another contest for the next CA Hall of Famer!

Beginning next week, I'll be polling everyone over which Cardboard Appreciation cards of the last year-plus are the best until we arrive at a second Hall of Fame selection!

Sound like fun?


Oh come on, polls are the definition of fun.

Except when they involve politics. That's no fun at all.

Cardboard Appreciation, The Review 2 is on its way!


  1. Oh...you said "boots"...with a 'T'...

    Got it.

  2. I loved Quiz & Steib back in those days. I couldn't figure out why they never won a Cy. I remember being 11 (in '85) and tryin' to figure out how the really low ERA's didn't mean they could be the best pitchers in the AL.

    I still can't figure out why they're not more highly esteemed.

  3. I wish I had the memory of seeing him pitch, but the first Royals pitchers I really remember is Breet Saberhagen, and it's really only because I was curious about him since his Starting Line-up figure came with the George Brett one I got. I've seen some video, and it looks like he was quite memorable.

    I'm hoping that you worked at either Boscov's, Montgomery Ward's, or Herman's Sporting Goods. You'll be glad to know that the Boscov's is still there and open, in fact.

  4. You were close with Montgomery Ward's. It was Bradlees.

  5. For me the memory that I have is of Darrell Evans dropping his bat after ball four and trotting to first. Can see it in my mind every time.