Bob Scanlan Played The Game With No Regrets

Bob Scanlan Played The Game With No Regrets

Growing up in Los Angeles, the first competitive sport that Bob played, was soccer, and according to him, it was a huge learning curve, and a bit of a nightmare. He kept picking up the ball with his hands, and getting yelled at by his coach. He did say that by the end of the season, he felt more comfortable, and was learning a little. The following year he tried baseball with the same result. He was the guy that the coach threw in right field to be out of the way, for the league mandated inning and a half, just because the coach had to put him in.

Bob said that he really enjoyed growing up in Los Angeles, because of all the opportunities that were presented with all of the sports, and the exposure to different races, cultures, religions, ethnicities, and affluences, and it served him quite well later on in the professional baseball career, with the teammates from all over the world. With this early exposure, it was easier to adapt to them, and make their adjustment to America, a little smoother transition.

I was interested in how Bob came to his decision of turning Professional versus attending College, and here’s how it all played out. He eventually had signed a letter of intent to UCLA, to attend for Mechanical Engineering, and Stanford was also speaking to him at that point, so he scared the scouts away, because he was likely heading to Stanford on scholarship, and they all told their clubs not to waste a high draft on him, as it would be a waste. He ended up getting drafted in the 25th round by Philadelphia, which is quite late, and Stanford had decided not to offer their scholarship after all, so he had a decision to make. Go to UCLA or turn pro. At that point he accepted the offer from the Phillies, because they had an amazing reputation at that point in developing young players, and he knew he would get then training he needed to really see if he had the talent to be a major leaguer. He left for Sarasota, Florida the day after he graduated from high school to start his pro career, and then made sure to attend UCLA over the off-season for about 7 years to obtain his engineering degree.

The minor league experience is one of bonding and camaraderie amongst the players, as for Bob, it was just amazing to be a 17 year-old that’s pursuing a dream, sharing a 3 bedroom apartment with 6 or 7 other guys, and you all chip in 100 bucks to buy a piece of junk car, just to take you back and forth to the ball park, and then there’s the part of constantly eating chips and other junk out of the vending machines at the Motel 6 all the time.

Minor leagues are a great life lesson, as to who get exposed to. I had one teammate from the mid south, that asked me one time when we were in South Carolina, if the moon we were looking at, was the same one he had in his state. There were so many people that had come from such sheltered lives, and were limited in worldly experience, and these were the guys you had to live with, work with, and try to succeed with. It was a great experience as far as I am concerned. I had teammates that were seeing their first color TV’s, or getting their first bank account, filling out their first checks, and some guys had never even mailed a letter before.

The dynamics is weird down in the minors, as you’re all fighting for the same thing, but you’re also fighting each other for the same thing. You are on a team trying to win, but each guy also has an interest, in his own personal career. It was always interesting to see who was the teammate that was willing to help another player get better, versus which teammate was solely there for himself.

The call up to the majors was a story of happiness and awkwardness. Bob had just ben traded from the Phillies to the Cubs, and was at there triple AAA team in Iowa, eating with some of his new teammates, when a coach approached him to ay he’d been called up, and needed to be in Chicago tomorrow. He was elated, but also standing with some teammates, who were not being called up, and had been in the team for a few years. When he got to Chicago, he was greeted with “Don’t get too comfortable. You’re only going to be here for 3 days”  I thought to myself, that if 3 days was what I was going to get in the majors, then I would content knowing I made it to the big show as a major league player. He said he will never forget that first look of the stadium, from his vantage point walking out of the dugout. He didn’t get in to any of those first 3 games, with the only action coming in the 2nd game, where he got up to warm up, so when that series was over, he thought he ws going down for sure. He never got called into the office, and boarded the plane for the trip to Atlanta. I was called to come down to the stadium early one day on that trip, to throw some pitches for Coach Don Zimmer, and then he informed me that I would be starting in Houston, a few days later.

How Bob got into broadcasting has me laughing hysterically as I write this. Bob was in what turned out to be his last year of playing, and it was on a day where he wasn’t pitching, so he was charting pitches, when he suddenly got hungry, and decided to get a snack in the locker room. Unfortunately there was nothing  in there, so he remembered that at this stadium, there was always a good spread for the broadcasters, so he snuck up there, and saw a plate of cookies. The problem was just as he grabbed a few of them, the door to the booth opened and their broadcaster caught him. He was then invited into the booth to announce for an inning, and then ended up staying for a few innings. The manager never knew he was gone, and throughout the rest of the year, on days he wasn’t pitching, he would go back and forth from the dugout to the broadcasters booth, and do some color commentary.

Bob recalled a couple of funny stories at this point in the interview, and thought it would be good to offer some insight into what happens on the mound when coaches come out to talk to the pitchers, since it’s not always about pitching mechanics. One time when Bob was on the Cubs, Rick Sutcliffe was pitching, and had just given up a homerun in Cincinnati, where fireworks are displayed after each home run, and he saw the coaches stirring in the dugout, and mumbled something over in their direction about staying in the game, so the umpire throws a new ball into play, and on the very next pitch, he gives up another home run, and off goes the fireworks again. Out from the dugout comes the pitching coach Billy Connors, and Sutcliffe is not pleased. As the coach approaches, Sutcliffe starts saying he wants to stay in, and the coach interrupts him, and says “No worries, Sut, You’re staying in, I just thought that maybe I’d come out here and give the fireworks guy a chance to re-load, before you make your next pitch”

On another occasion, I had my own my funny story involving Billy Connors. It was the 9th inning of a game, and we were up by a run, and I get the first 2 guys out, and then gave up back to back singles. Out comes Connors from the dugout, as I guess that I was looking a little nervous or uncomfortable out there on the mound, and I think he’s going to talk to me about my mechanics or something. He suddenly asks me what day it is, so I answer “Well, it’s Wednesday Billy”  “Damn right it’s Wednesday Bobby, and do you know what happens on Wednesday? “ They serve Lasagna in the clubhouse on Wednesday, and it’s the best lasagna in Chicago, so get this guy out, cause I’m starving” I started cracking up[ on the mound, beared down, got the next guy out, and then as is customary at end game, you line up for high fives, first with the players, and then the coaches at the end of the line, and I didn’t see Billy at all. When I got to the clubhouse, he was sitting there with a huge plate of Lasagna, with sauce all over his face, and he looks up and says, “ Atta boy Bobby, I knew you could do it” I knew that if I could just get you to relax a little, your ability would take over, and you’d get it done. Bob said that this was a great learning experience about performing better under tense conditions when you relax, and let ability do it’s thing.

Bob spoke about his job as a Color Analyst:

I think along with the Pitchers, Catchers, and Managers

I try not to second guess, but rather share what the thought process might be of the player at that moment.

I need to answer 2 questions as an analyst. HOW something happened, and WHY it happened

I need to be honest but not hurtful when criticism is necessary

Teach the game of baseball and entertain

Maintain journalistic integrity out of respect for the game to be played properly. Bob closed with some final advice of LEAVE NO REGRETS AT THE END OF YOUR CAREER. Things may or may not work out, but at least, with hard work and dedication to your craft, you will know that you have given yourself every opportunity to succeed

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