Handwritten letters are endangered species.
About the only places they live on are birthday cards, thank you notes and summer camp letters, which kids are forced to write because nostalgia keeps their parents signing those checkbooks (another endangered medium).
On the occasion of one of my favorite childhood baseball players, Dan Quisenberry, missing out on the Baseball Hall of Fame, I just wrote a column for The Atlantic reminiscing about the thrill of receiving a two-page letter from him in 1981. (“How Athletes Ensure Immortality: Not all greats make the Hall of Fame. Not all Hall of Famers are remembered. But a player who forges personal connections with fans with live on.”)
You can read the story here, but I’d also like to share the full text of the letter for the benefit of the world’s Kansas City Royals fans — or anyone who still cherishes the power of handwritten letters.
The idea of a professional athlete, let alone the American League’s best closer, taking the time to write a two-page letter to a kid he thought was “creative,” is unfathomable to me as a jaded adult. Sadly, Quisenberry died of brain cancer at age 45 — younger than the age that many of the kids watching him pitch would be now.
Here’s Dan’s letter for you to read for yourself:
Out of courtesy for those of you on mobile phones, I’ve typed up the contents below:
Thank you for your letter. I get hundreds of letters and never write back, but I am this time because your letter was so creative.
#1 – I did practice baseball as a kid a lot, had an older brother and lots of boys on the block to play catch with. When there wasn’t someone around, I would throw against a wall and pretend I was pitching in the major leagues. Or sometimes I would practice my swing or delivery in front of the mirror.
#2 – I have played baseball and catch all my life, grew up in California where it is almost always warm so I think my arm developed a lot of stamina. Or else God just made it that way because I don’t think I am strong compared to other teammates or other players. When I was a teenager, I played almost the year round and was always throwing some kind of ball. But now after the season, I don’t throw anything until right before Spring Training.
#3 – I think running is important for general health and conditioning. It’s more important in other sports and also more important as you get older. If you are a young teenager, I don’t think you would need it.
My best wishes,
P.S. If you ever write again, please send it to: Royals Stadium, PO Box 1969, K.C. Royals, K.C., MO 64141 – because I normally don’t answer (and sometimes don’t even look at) fan mail at home.
My column also references a handwritten letter from Joe Sewell, the 1930s Yankees shortstop who had the lowest strikeout ratio of all time and was Lou Gehrig’s roommate. I’ll be posting that letter separately.
In case you missed the original story, here’s a sneak peek:
Has a professional athlete ever answered one of your childhood fan letters? Lemme know on Twitter: @darrengarnick