Reusse: After giving all, former Twins manager Quilici seeks givers

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 9, 2013 - 12:24 AM

The former Twins player and manager, who had a kidney transplant, is asking fans to become organ donors.

hide

Former Twin Frank Quilici cheered during a clinic in 2012.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Laura Domanowska and Guido Quilici met working at a neighborhood bakery on the near South Side of Chicago. They were married, stayed right there and raised two children, Frank and Rose Marie.

Frank made it to the big leagues as an infielder with the Twins in the pennant-winning season of 1965. Over the next 17 years, he was a player, a coach, a manager (mid-1972 through 1975) and a radio announcer for the team.

Through this time, there was a tradition when the Twins played the White Sox at Comiskey Park. It involved the sausages prepared by Frank’s mother and lugged to the ballpark by Guido a couple of hours before the first game of a series.

“Ma would get Roma Italian sausages and the bread from Fontana’s and then she added her incredible sauce,” Frank said. “Pa would bring them to the ballpark in ‘Polish luggage’ … paper bags.

“Pa took care of everyone, including the broadcasters. Harry Caray was with the White Sox. One night he said to Jimmy Piersall, ‘I’m going on a diet for a few days.’ Jimmy asked why, and Harry said, ‘The Twins are going to be in town and I need room for Momma Qua-leechi’s sausage sandwiches.’ ”

My first two years on the Twins beat were 1974 and 1975, with Frank as the manager. It was an interesting way to break in: watching a young manager continue to fight against futility, even when his toughest opponent was ownership.

In 1974, Calvin Griffth gave Quilici a three-man coaching staff: pitching coach Bob Rodgers, plus old-timers Ralph Rowe and Vern Morgan. Rowe and Morgan didn’t throw batting practice, meaning Quilici and Rodgers threw thousands of BP pitches over the course of the season.

In 1975, the Twins kept outfielder Steve Brye on the active list for several weeks with a cast on his broken hand. Calvin’s response to Quilici’s plea for a usable player was, “Brye can pinch-run.”

That’s what Quilici faced in those cash-strapped days for the Twins. The fact he went 280-287 (including 82-80 in 1974) made Frank more a magician than a failed manager.

Quilici left the Twins broadcast team after the 1982 season and went to work for Western Diversified, a company that works with car dealers. He had a good run there, and married Lila in 2000.

Frank has been involved in numerous charitable causes in Minnesota. His passion today is promoting organ donorship, and for good reason.

Quilici lost the function of a kidney a decade ago. The cause was “high blood pressure,” which may or may not have started with the irresistibility of Roma sausages on Fontana’s bread, with Ma’s sauce.

“The other kidney started going downhill a few years ago,” Quilici said. “We registered for a donor kidney. It was getting to the point that I was headed for dialysis.”

And then Elizabeth, the wife of Frank’s longtime pal Bobby, was tested, and she came out as a match. On May 14, 2012, Elizabeth donated a kidney to Frank.

“They didn’t take out a kidney … just put in a third one,” Quilici said. “I call her ‘Little Liz.’ She sits on my left hip.”

Things aren’t perfect. The BK virus that can attack transplanted organs struck Frank a while back. “I have 23 percent function in my working kidney,” he said. “You can live with that.”

The anti-rejection drug Quilici takes can have a negative impact on memory. His recollections are interrupted occasionally with a “Dang, I forgot.”

“Hey, we’re having ‘Donor Day’ at Target Field again this year, on June 29,” he said. “It’s all about awareness. My doctor, Jamie Gitter, has told me if we could get everyone to put ‘donor’ on their driver’s license, the problem would be taken care of.”

A twist in this is that Frank’s wife, Lila, worked as a critical care nurse for Dr. Michael DeBakey, the pioneer transplant surgeon in Houston.

“A patient would wake up after heart surgery, see Lila and say, ‘Am I alive? I see the face of an angel,’ ” Quilici said.

He might be 74, but he still can reach back and find Frankie, a smooth operator from “the neighborhood” in Chicago.

 

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. • preusse@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close