Happy birthday to the incomparable Bob Scanlan. The Scanman somehow turns 47 today, although he doesn't look a day over 29. He has worn a lot of hats over the years; literally so in his playing days and figuratively since.
A twenty-fifth round pick out of high school in 1984, Scanlan persevered for seven years in the Phillies' system before he got his opportunity. After stops in the GCL, Spartanburg, Clearwater, Reading, Maine, Reading again, and Scranton/ Wilkes Barre, Scan was traded to the Cubs along with Chuck McElroy for Mitch Williams on April 7, 1991. He made four appearances with Iowa before making his major league debut one month to the day later.
Everyone's first game is one they'll remember, but Scanlan's was worth remembering. He earned the win by going seven strong innings, allowing only five hits and no earned runs against a Houston Astros team featuring future Friars Steve Finley and Ken Caminiti. Scan was 0-2 at the plate but did work a walk against the late Darryl Kile. Oddly, it would prove to be the only walk of his career.
Following his solid rookie season, Scanlan was moved to the 'pen full-time in '92. He excelled in that role and led the team with 14 saves after being promoted to closer. It was short lived, as the team acquired Randy Myers before the '93 season but Scanlan made the best of it and recorded 25 holds, a team record that would stand until Carlos Marmol notched 30 in 2008.
The Cubs dealt Scanlan to Milwaukee prior to the 1994 season. After two years there, including a three-game stint in AA New Orleans, he split 1996 between Detroit and Kansas City, also making stops at Lakeland, Toledo, and Omaha. 1997 saw Scan spend a month in the Mexican League with Mexico City before he got picked up by the Padres organization; he put up solid numbers with AAA Las Vegas but, for the first time since 1990, he saw no major league action.
Scanlan made his way back to the majors in 1998 with Houston and did well in 27 games out of the bullpen. He also spent time with New Orleans again; by that time they were the Astros' AAA affiliate. He spent all of 1999 there as well before returning to the majors in 2000 with Milwaukee. Like New Orleans, the Brewers had shifted leagues since his last time there. He only got into two games with the newly-NL Brew Crew that year but was phenomenal all season with their AAA team in Indianapolis, saving 35 games with a 1.79 ERA.
His final season in the majors was 2001 with Montreal. He made his final appearance on September 29, allowing one earned run on three singles in the the eighth inning of a 7-4 loss to Cincinnati. Scanlan also saved 23 games for AAA Ottawa that season. He pitched two more seasons in the minors, splitting 2002 between the Rockies' AAA team in Colorado Springs and the Yankees' AAA affiliate in Columbus, OH before going back to the Astros' system in 2003 where he pitched very well for AA Round Rock and, yet again, AAA New Orleans.
In his 20 years of professional ball, Scanlan spent all or part of nine of them in the majors with six different teams. In his 17 seasons with time in the minors he pitched for 18 teams; 19 if you count the AA and AAA incarnations of the New Orleans Zephyrs as two different teams. If that's not love of the game I don't know what is.
After hanging up his spikes, Scanlan promptly transitioned into his second career behind the microphone and the keyboard. The typing kind; he doesn't play piano as far as I know, although I wouldn't be surprised in the least if he did. He's been a jack of many trades and a master of all of them, working as a pre-game, in-game, and post-game analyst on television as well as a variety of roles on both satellite and terrestrial radio. He has even contributed to Spanish radio broadcasts, which impresses me to no end, but now you can regularly hear him doing Padres games in his native tongue.
No tribute to Bob Scanlan would be complete without mentioning his amazing hair. It's so spectacular that it makes me kind of sad that he had to keep it covered with a hat for 20 years. Lucky for us, it's free from its woolen cage to be seen in all its glory. Le swoon.
If you feel so inclined, you can tell him happy birthday on Twitter or his Facebook fan page, both of which he keeps up with regularly. Even if you don't, he's still well worth a follow and a like. His personal website is also excellent and frequently updated.
So, happy cake day, Scan; I hope it's the best one yet. Here's to 47 more great years!